Citing his lack of remorse from the theft of nearly $7 million from clients over the years, federal prosecutors want former wrongful-death and personal-injury attorney William Conour sentenced to the maximum term of 20 years Thursday, according to a sentencing memorandum filed Tuesday.
Conour “stole nearly $7 million … from his clients to finance his lavish lifestyle,” the government said. Previously, Conour had been accused of defrauding more than 25 clients of at least $4.5 million.
The federal government says Conour should be sentenced Thursday to the maximum term of 20 years in prison and that seven of his victims should have the opportunity to offer victim-impact statements.
“He has never shown remorse for his actions nor truly accepted responsibility for his conduct,” the government said. Factors including the vulnerability of victims, number of victims and Conour’s deception of the court support imposing the maximum penalty, according to the filing.
Michael Donahoe, Conour’s court-appointed public defender, could not be immediately reached for comment.
“The scheme began by at least 2008 and continued until at least 2012. ... Thus, through the use of the trust accounts and settlement agreements, the defendant was able to execute his scheme and avoid detection for four years while he defrauded 36 victims of almost $7 million,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Bohm wrote in the memorandum.
Conour is scheduled to be sentenced at 2 p.m. Thursday by Chief Judge Richard Young of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. While Young hasn’t acted on the request to allow victim statements, he previously indicated in court that he would be inclined to let victims have their say.
Conour pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud in July, days after Young ordered Conour’s bond revoked for dissipating assets without court approval. Conour has been in the Marion County Jail since.
Tuesday’s filing characterizes a few of his victims. “A man, paralyzed as the result of his accident, now requires state aid for medical treatment rather than money he should have received. A woman died indigent in a nursing home, while more than $200,000 sat in a 'trust' account for her benefit. A mother and her children struggle to get by after their husband and father’s death. The money that should have supported them and paid for college is gone. Some funds have been recovered for these victims. It is unlikely, however, that they will be made whole.”
To date, about $500,000 has been contributed to a court fund for restitution. That includes $450,000 from Indiana University, which returned a contribution for the naming of the former William and Jennifer Conour Atrium at the Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis, as well as $30,000 from the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association.
One of Conour’s daughters, identified in court papers as A.K., also this week received court approval to donate $20,000 to the court fund. The fund also will be supplemented with the post-sentencing sale of Conour’s assets—mainly home furnishings, art and home furnishings.
The prosecution’s sentencing memorandum says Conour presented himself in promotional videos for his former law firm as a professional and ethical attorney dedicated to helping clients, but who in reality was stealing from those victims to feed a lifestyle of Bentley, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche automobiles, mansions and horse farms.
“Rather than serving his clients, the defendant understood the legal system and consistently exploited it to his advantage,” the sentencing memorandum says. “His clients were largely naïve to the legal system and relied on the defendant to navigate the system for them. They also relied on the settlements of their claims for compensation to replace either their inability to work or the permanent loss of a wage earner.
“In exchange for ‘his services,’ the defendant generally took 40 percent of the settlement in attorney’s fees. For the 36 identified victims in this case, the defendant was paid nearly $3.5 million dollars in attorney’s fees and nearly $100,000 in expenses. The defendant, however, stole another $6.7 million from his clients through the use of false annuities, fraudulent trusts, and general deception. He used that money to further his lavish lifestyle and to pay other clients for previous settlements, similar to a Ponzi-scheme.”
The sophistication of the scheme and Conour’s violation of a court order support an enhanced sentence, the government argues in objecting to the confidential presentence investigative report prepared by the federal probation department.
“In this case, the defendant’s complex and intricate use of trust accounts and structured settlements demonstrates that his scheme involved more planning and concealment than a typical fraud. As part of the scheme, the defendant created at least 14 separate trust accounts with an Ohio financial institution, even though his personal injury practice was located in Indiana,” according to the government.
“When he negotiated settlements on behalf of his personal injury clients, he convinced many of those clients to accept a structured settlement rather than a lump-sum settlement. The use of the trust accounts and the structured settlements allowed the defendant both to execute his scheme and to avoid detection.
“More specifically, it allowed him to execute his scheme based on the trust agreement that he had negotiated with the Ohio financial institution. The agreement allowed him to fund the trusts on a yearly basis with funds only sufficient to enable the financial institution to issue monthly checks for a year, thereby allowing the defendant to illegally retain the bulk of the settlements for his own purposes,” the sentencing memorandum says.
The filing notes that Conour told the court that the failure to pay clients was a cash flow problem. “The truth, however, is that the defendant did not steal his clients’ money because of cash flow problems or business expenses. He stole it to fill his wine cellar with Dom Perignon and Cristal. He stole it to take trips around the world. He stole it to enrich himself.”