FLOWERY BRANCH - A former attorney from Flowery Branch was disbarred Tuesday and sentenced to five years and five months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Richard Story on charges of mail fraud and aggravated identity theft.
Patrick Crosby, public affairs officer for the U.S. Attorney's Office, said investigations revealed in court affirmed that Charles Femery Peebles, 46, stole settlement money from his clients over the past few years.
"(Peebles) was an
attorney and owned his own firm in Norcross," Crosby said.
According to information sent in a press release by Crosby, Peebles was a plaintiff's lawyer who specialized in construction litigation. He represented many clients who suffered physical injury and property damage resulting from mold infestations in their homes.
U.S. Attorney David E. Nahmias proved in court that Peebles settled his clients' cases, forged
their signatures on checks and kept the money for himself.
In a 2004 case, a
condominium association hired Peebles to bring a
claim against its builder for faulty construction. Peebles
settled the case and received eight checks totaling more than $700,000
but did not tell his
clients about the
settlement. The former lawyer forged the president of the association's
signature on the
settlement checks and converted the money to pay his bills.
According to Crosby's press release, the investigation revealed Peebles "used the money to pay (for) his business expenses, construction done on his house and his girlfriend's rent and utilities."
Crosby said a federal grand jury indicted Peebles on May 5, 2005, and he pleaded guilty Nov. 6 to one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.
In addition to Peebles' prison sentence, he received three years of supervision following his time in prison and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $582,156.43.
"Peebles was arrested numerous times in Gwinnett County," said
Cpl. Darren Moloney, spokesman for the Gwinnett County Police Department.
Moloney said Peebles was last arrested in the county on Dec. 9, 2004, and charged with theft by
conversion, felony theft
by conversion and
10 counts of first-degree forgery.