An attorney in San Diego who once won a local "woman of the year" award is now apparently a fugitive after being charged with misappropriating hundreds of thousands in funds from her clients, reported The Daily Beast on Thursday.
"Kelly DuFord Williams, 36, was charged with a slew of crimes — including grand theft of personal property and forgery of checks, money orders, and travelers’ checks — after allegedly swindling more than $400,000 from at least eight legal clients, according to a criminal complaint obtained by The Daily Beast and filed in San Diego Superior Court. Williams was also hit with an aggravated white-collar crime enhancement," reported Decca Muldowney and Pilar Melendez. "A March 20 warrant was filed for William’s arrest, but records from the San Diego Sheriff’s department show she is not in custody."
"Prosecutors say that starting in 2020, Williams and her boutique law firm, Slate Law Group, were hired in various civil matters. After successfully securing settlements for her clients, Williams allegedly would deposit their checks into 'her client trust account or business checking account,' and then 'spent the money without giving the clients their full share,'" said the report. "Fernando Rodridguez, a former client of Williams’, told The Daily Beast earlier this month that the lawyer allegedly stole part of his $175,000 settlement from an unjust termination case. The complaint details Rodriguez’s case, noting that Williams only paid him $24,450. Court documents say he is still owed $15,550."
The California State Bar has recommended Williams be stripped of her license to practice law, both due to the alleged embezzlement and an incident in which she "made at least two false 911 calls in Utah, where she allegedly posed as a district attorney concerned about the welfare of a child because she was angry at a former paramour."
Attorneys ripping off their own clients have made national news in recent years.
Last year, celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti — who once represented adult film star Stormy Daniels at the start of the controversy with former President Donald Trump — was sentenced to 14 years in prison for tax fraud and embezzlement of millions from clients. And this year, prosecutors argued that South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh, who was convicted of the murder of his wife and son, committed the killings to cover up his financial crimes, including embezzling from his clients and law partners.
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