HUNTINGTON –- An attorney has been sentenced to 21 months in prison for wire fraud.
Jeremy T. Vickers, 36, of Summerville, formerly of Point Pleasant, was sentenced Jan. 17 by U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers. Vickers pleaded guilty in October, admitting he had submitted false and fraudulent payment vouchers for reimbursement for court-appointed defense work.
Since 2004, the defendant practiced law in Point Pleasant. Among other types of cases, Vickers represented indigent clients in state criminal matters pending in Mason, Jackson and Roane counties.
At the conclusion of each case, Vickers routinely submitted a payment voucher form to the respective circuit court judge for approval. The judge reviewed the payment voucher and signed a court order authorizing payment. Vickers then submitted the court order to the West Virginia Public Defender Services for payment.
Typically, the WVPDS took several months or more to reimburse Vickers.
Vickers entered into a cash-advance agreement with Huntington-based Attorney Finance Corporation ("AFC") to expedite his reimbursement payments. In exchange for prompt payments less a small percentage, Vickers assigned his right to full payment from WVPDS to AFC.
In essence, once Vickers received the court order approving his payment voucher for a particular case, he would fax a copy of the order to both WVPDS and AFC. AFC would then wire Vickers the reimbursement less a percentage that same day or the next day. When WVPDS eventually processed the same payment voucher, WVPDS would pay AFC directly the full amount.
Beginning in the fall of 2008 through at least July 2010, Vickers began falsely inflating the hours he worked on indigent criminal cases. Vickers admitted that for at least 173 days, he billed more than 24 hours of legal work. He was paid by AFC for those days. When WVPDS processed the bills months later, the discrepancy came to light.
WVPDS confronted Vickers regarding the excessive billing and froze any further payments.
Vickers further admitted that he continued to obtain approved payment vouchers from the circuit court, which he subsequently faxed to AFC for payment. Vickers also admitted that he avoided detection of the scheme by purposely failing to send the payment vouchers to WVPDS.
As a result, AFC was not reimbursed for their advance payments to the defendant.
In total, Vickers fraudulently obtained $221,740.43 from AFC.
The charges against Vickers arose 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.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas C. Ryan handled the prosecution.