Former Winston-Salem attorney Robert Keller Leonard, who was disbarred 10 years ago for mishandling a client’s money, has pleaded guilty to embezzlement charges after admitting he stole $300,000 from an elderly man who survived cancer and needs oxygen to live.
On Dec. 12, Forsyth County prosecutors charged Leonard, 72, with three counts of embezzlement and one count of obtaining property by false pretenses. He pleaded guilty to those charges the next day, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.
According to prosecutors, Leonard’s embezzlement scheme ran from 2011 to 2015, while he was serving as trustee of a fund set up to cover the medical expenses of 61-year-old Robert Grayson.
Grayson’s father, Theodore Grayson, created the fund in 2003 to cover his son’s medical care. But when Theodore Grayson died, Leonard took over as trustee of the $604,000 fund.
Leonard allegedly began pulling money out of the account, eventually using hundreds of thousands of dollars for his own benefit. Leonard allegedly spent $139,336 from the trust account to buy 3,495 silver coins, which he allegedly told Robert Grayson would be an investment. But prosecutors said Leonard actually sold the coins and kept the money for himself. Only a handful of the coins was recovered after Leonard’s scheme was discovered.
Leonard also used the trust account to buy a house, which he allegedly claimed would be rented out to bring more money to the trust account. However, Leonard moved into the house himself.
Leonard also allegedly cashed checks back into the trust account to cover his tracks.
Prosecutors said the scheme was ultimately discovered when Robert Grayson attempted to buy oxygen, only to be told his check had bounced.
Under a plea deal, Leonard was sentenced to four years and 10 months to six years and 10 months in prison. He also was ordered to pay a $300,000 civil judgment.
Mark Jones, Leonard’s attorney, said in court that the plea was the best way to resolve the case, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.. Efforts to reach Jones for additional comment were not immediately successful.
The criminal charges related to the Grayson trust fund were not the first time Leonard has gotten in trouble.
Leonard was disbarred in 2005 after he was found to have mishandling a client’s case.
According to disciplinary records, Leonard represented Betty Wilson on a personal injury claim in 1999. He secured a $52,000 settlement for her without filing a lawsuit.
Records say that money was put into a trust account, which Leonard allegedly used for his own benefit.
Follow Jeff Jeffrey on Twitter @NCLWJeffrey