Disbarred Mingo attorney indicted for wire fraud

By Lawrence Smith | Jun 11, 2010

HUNTINGTON -- A disbarred Mingo County attorney has been indicted on fraud charges stemming from his work on court-appointed cases.

A federal grand jury on May 18 indicted William H. Duty on four counts of wire fraud. The indictment alleges Duty falsified billing statements he submitted to the state of West Virginia during an 30-month period when he was a practicing attorney.

According the indictment, Duty between June 2005 and December 2007 submitted to the state Public Defender Services $132,000 in fictitious vouchers. Because of a backlog in paying for court-appointed work, Duty, like many attorneys, submitted the vouchers to a third-party who would advance him payment him minus a percentage.

The third-party would then receive money after the vouchers were submitted to and approved by the PDS. The name of the third-party is identified as the Daniels Capital Corporation.

The indictment specifies four cases in which Duty would "create false payment vouchers by altering original signed payment vouchers with a false name and other fictitious information" and transmit the vouchers via the fax machine in his Williamson office to Daniels' office outside West Virginia. The two juvenile and two adult criminal cases which he was appointed between February and May 2006 totaled $11,615.

Around the time Duty engaged in the alleged acts of fraud, he was under investigation by the state Bar for unrelated acts of misconduct. The Lawyer Disciplinary Board, the Bar's prosecutorial arm, petitioned the state Supreme Court to annul Duty's license for committing 15 violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

According the Board, Duty, among other things, commingled and converted $25,000 in client funds, tried to overbill a client $3,500, shared a fee with a nonlawyer, failed to segregate disputed sums from his own, failed to keep a client informed on the status of a case, made false statements under oath and tried to interfere with the disciplinary process by asking a client to withdraw a complaint.

The Court on Feb. 8, 2008, first annulled Duty's license after he failed to file a brief in his defense or show for oral arguments in his case the month before. However, after he filed a petition for reconsideration on March 17, 2008, the Court again scheduled oral arguments on the Board's annulment petition for May 21.

In his motion, Duty said the reason he did not file a brief was due to his coping with a serious illness the latter half of 2007. He blamed his misconduct on an addiction to the painkiller OxyContin, but said he was being treated for his addiction and was clean for the last two years.

However, the Court was unmoved and on Nov. 25, 2008, again voted to annul Duty's license.

Currently, Duty is free on $10,000 unsecured bond. His trial is scheduled for July 26.

The case is assigned to Judge John T. Copenhaver Jr.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, case number 10-cr-71

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