A Bristol bankruptcy attorney who stole more than $160,000 from his firm is going to federal prison.
Tony Michael Hutchinson was sentenced to four months of incarceration and ordered to pay $160,647 in restitution. Also, he’ll serve two years of supervised release after prison.
Hutchinson, 52, had pleaded guilty to a one count of wire fraud.
The feds say he worked for a law firm in Bristol, Virginia, and then Kingsport. He was the only lawyer there who actively practiced bankruptcy law and the bankruptcy practice was somewhat separate from other operations of the firm.
According to U.S. Attorney Anthony Giorno, when clients retained the law firm to file bankruptcy petitions for them, Hutchinson collected initial payments of approximately $500 to $1,000. The money was supposed to be used, among other things, to pay bankruptcy filing fees. Hutchinson didn’t deposit it into the firm’s trust account to pay bankruptcy filing fees. Instead, from 2007 through 2012, he charged an additional $50 fee per client to cover expenses and kept those fees, totaling more than $60,000 for himself.
Then, beginning about 2013, Hutchinson received the initial payments from clients as cash and blank money orders, did not deposit the funds into the trust account, did not record the payments on the firm’s books, and used most of the money for his personal purposes. In 2013 and 2014, Hutchinson stole over $70,000 from those funds.
Also according to Giorno, to keep the scheme going, Hutchinson used the firm’s credit card account to pay the client’s bankruptcy filing fees in the bankruptcy court for the Western District of Virginia. He fraudulently used the firm’s credit card for more than $70,000 in bankruptcy filing fees that should have been paid from the initial payments collected from clients.