LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A Louisville attorney pleaded guilty in United States District Court yesterday, before Magistrate Judge Dave Whalin, to criminal counts of wire fraud and money laundering, stemming from his activities as the executor of seven estates in Louisville, announced United States Attorney John E. Kuhn, Jr.
“Attorneys are professionally and ethically bound to serve their clients’ best interests,” stated U.S. Attorney John Kuhn. “We simply cannot tolerate attorneys or any other fiduciaries using their positions of trust to steal from those they are obligated to protect. This prosecution serves the principle of justice and vindicates the breach of a trust that is an absolutely essential component of a multitude of professional relationships.”
David Cary Ford, 53, admitted that from November 6, 2008, through February 11, 2015, while a practicing attorney, he served as executor of the estates of Saundra A. Benzinger, Kenneth L. Keith, William T. Lawson, Mary Helen Pfeffer, Elinor E. Starr, Mary Augustine Starr, and Richard Steinmetz. Ford took funds from those estates totaling approximately $1,666,671.18, and used those estates’ funds for personal expenses and enjoyment, including significant gambling activity, instead of using the funds as designated by the decedents of those estates, or for the benefit of the beneficiaries of those estates, in the following amounts:
$ 737,981.00 Estate of Saundra Benzinger
$ 492,862.18 Estate of Elinor Starr
$ 290,315.00 Estate of Mary Starr
$ 62,343.00 Estate of Kenneth Keith
$ 26,300.00 Estate of Richard Steinmetz
$ 17,025.00 Estate of Mary Helen Pfeffer
$ 8,200.00 Estate of William Lawson
Specifically, as executor of these estates, Ford was authorized at various banks to pay estate expenses. However, Ford also used these estate accounts, without authorization, to withdraw cash and to pay his personal expenses with estate client funds. In his capacity as executor, Ford processed these withdrawals of estate funds and mischaracterized them as estate expenses.
Further, Ford admitted that from July 21, 2014, to July 28, 2014, he laundered fraud proceeds by using funds from one estate to conceal the depletion of the funds from another estate. Specifically, to promote his unlawful activity and to conceal or disguise the source and nature of proceeds from that unlawful activity, on July 24, 2014, after depleting the funds of the Estate of Kenneth L. Keith, Ford took $35,960.18 from the estate of Elinor E. Starr, in a cashier’s check, deposited those funds into his escrow account, and then on July 28, 2014, used $25,000 of those funds to pay a beneficiary of the Estate of Kenneth L. Keith.
As part of the plea agreement, Ford agreed to make restitution to the beneficiaries of the estates ($1,554,555.36 to various charities, nonprofits and religious organizations, and $47,771.78 to individuals) in the following amounts:
|St. Mary’s Church||$ 268,459.06|
|Passionist Community||$ 245,993.67|
|Passionist Nuns||$ 245,993.67|
|WHAS Crusade For Children||$ 245,993.67|
|National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton||$ 134,229.53|
|Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, Inc.||$ 134,229.53|
|Archdiocese of Louisville||$ 89,486.35|
|St. Francis of Assisi Church||$ 44,743.18|
|Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, Inc.||$ 44,743.18|
|Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s||$ 44,743.18|
|Nazareth Literary and Benevolent Institution, Inc.||$ 44,743.18|
|L.S. (an individual)||$ 24,300.50|
|C.P. (an individual)||$ 17,025.00|
|Little Sisters of the Poor||$ 5,598.59|
|L.A. (an individual)||$ 3,099.48|
|C.B. (an individual)||$ 3,099.48|
|Holy Family Catholic Church||$ 2,799.30|
|Our Mother of Sorrows Catholic Church||$ 2,799.30|
|R.S. (an individual)||$ 82.44|
|V. S. (an individual)||$ 82.44|
|P.S. (an individual)||$ 82.44|
Ford faces a maximum penalty of forty years’ imprisonment, $750,000 in fines, and supervised release for a period of three years. Sentencing is scheduled on June 6, 2016, in Louisville.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jason Snyder, and it results from an investigation conducted by the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.