Two attorneys charged with wire fraud

By Chris Dickerson | Sep 14, 2011

CHARLESTON -- Two West Virginia attorneys have been charged with wire fraud.

CHARLESTON -- Two West Virginia attorneys have been charged with wire fraud.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin announced that Jeremy Vickers, 36, of Point Pleasant, was charged in a one-count Information for submitting fraudulent bills for work he performed in appointed state criminal matters.

According to the Information, Vickers billed more than 24 hours for one day's work on 173 occasions. Vickers submitted those false bills to a third-party vendor who ultimately was reimbursed with state monies through the West Virginia Public Defender Service ("PDS"). Vickers' case will be assigned to the Huntington Division of the Southern District of West Virginia.

In a similar scheme, Christopher Bledsoe, 33, of Pineville, also was charged in a one-count Information.

According to the Information, Bledsoe forged a local circuit court judge's signature on payment vouchers and other court documents so he could submit falsely inflated invoices to a different third-party vendor who also was ultimately reimbursed by the PDS. Bledsoe's case will be assigned to the Beckley Division of the Southern District of West Virginia.

In November 2010, yet another attorney, Bill Duty, of Delbarton admitted to stealing nearly $120,000 through a similar fraudulent scheme and was sentenced to six months in prison, followed by six months of community confinement for his conduct.

"Lawyers take an oath to uphold the law," Goodwin said. "That's why I know that other members of this profession will agree with me that it is alarming to have three lawyers prosecuted in this district over the last year for breaking the law in the course of performing their duties."

The charges against Bledsoe and Vickers arise out of an investigation by the West Virginia Commission on Special Investigations into false and fraudulent billings submitted by attorneys for services performed in appointed criminal matters.

Both Vickers and Bledsoe have agreed to plead guilty to the charges and the plea hearings will be scheduled in the near future.

The cases are being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas C. Ryan and investigated by the West Virginia Commission on Special Investigations.

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