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South florida lawyer sentenced in federal court

July 27, 2010

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A well-known lawyer and forensic accountant was sentenced to 8 years in federal court on theft related charges. Lew Freeman, a former lawyer and accountant was accused of stealing millions of dollars from his clients. The Miami criminal defense lawyers representing Freeman portrayed their client as a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. They argued that the person who stole approximately $2.6 million from clients also was a philanthropist that gave to and supported many charities. The United States District Judge agreed with the Freeman's counsel that his crimes allowed him to live an upscale lifestyle, but also used the money to help people.

The pre-sentence investigation (PSI) report drafted by a federal probation officer initially calculated Freeman's sentence at between 12 and 15 years. Government prosecutors argued for a sentence within that range, but the judge recalculated the guidelines when the government could not prove the number of victims of fraud set out in the PSI. In addition to the 8 years, the judge order the defendant to complete 21 months of house arrest with the condition that he perform 1,700 hours of community service during that time.

The judge immediately ordered Freeman into custody to serve his sentence. On some occasions, judges permit defendants to receive their sentence and surrender at a later date to begin their sentence. This was not the case, either by the choice of the judge or the defendant. Freeman apologized to his family, the court and his victims. The facts of the case were stunning in that the defendant, trusted by South Florida courts over 30 years to act as a receiver in many high stakes bankruptcy and fraud cases, became involved in fraud himself. The judge presiding over the sentencing hearing was moved by defense counsel's arguments, but also found that Freeman had violated the trust of many and dealt a blow to the entire system.

Freeman garnered a lot of support from friends, family and other members of the community. Prior to the sentencing hearing, the judge received 277 letters from supporters. The majority of the letters condemned his actions, but all applauded him for his charitable efforts on behalf of the University of Miami, Miami Children's Hospital and Miami Children's Museum, among others. While the letters, support and charitable efforts were well-represented to the judge, the court had to contend with the breach of trust and the numerous victims that lost money. The court also made a point that the defendant spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on clothing, vacation, home renovations, and restaurants. The defense attorney's representing Freeman put together an outstanding presentation, but the number of victims and the underlying offense were too much to overcome a significant prison term.

Miami Accountant Lewis Freeman Gets 8 Years in Prison for Fraud, The Miami Herald, July 24, 2010.
Categories: Sentencing
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