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North Carolina lawyer convicted of embezzlement from clients

A disbarred lawyer who had offices in three major North Carolina cities has pleaded guilty to charges that he embezzled about $100,000 from clients.

Devin Ferree Thomas, 47, of Charlotte entered the plea in Winston-Salem on July 3 to six counts of embezzlement.

Thomas had been a personal injury lawyer with offices in Winston-Salem, Greensboro and Raleigh.

Forsyth Superior Court Judge David Hall ruled that Thomas must serve 10 days in jail, as well as 50 hours of community service and five years of supervised probation. Those penalties are in lieu of suspended sentences that totaled between two and seven years in prison.

Thomas has paid $100,000 in restitution to the North Carolina State Bar, which distributed the money to those from whom Thomas took the money.

He is also subject to random drug tests and searches and seizures without a warrant.

Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill said he requested an investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation in 2016 after Thomas was disbarred. The prosecutor said the SBI investigation found that Thomas embezzled the money and used some of it to support a drug addiction.

Thomas would spend as much as $1,000 a day on his drug addiction, O’Neill said.

Thomas was accused of transferring some money from clients to two personal accounts between October 2014 and February 2015.

Thomas’ attorney, David Freedman, said his client has gotten in-patient treatment.

Freedman said Thomas’ drug addiction problems resulted from depression and that he didn’t know how to seek proper treatment.

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