According to a press release from the office of Cobb County District Attorney Joyette Holmes, a former Acworth attorney entered a plea of guilty to using funds entrusted to him by clients, many of them elderly, to pay personal bills, write checks to himself and family members, and make payments to other individuals from whom he had previously taken money.
The now disbarred attorney, Anthony Eugene Cheatham, 63, handled real estate transactions and elder law. The misappropriation of the money, which was taken from his IOLTA Trust Account, began as early as 2012, according to Cobb Sheriff’s Office investigators.
According to the IOLTA website, “A lawyer who receives funds that belong to a client must place those funds in a trust account separate from the lawyer’s own money. Client funds are deposited in an IOLTA account when the funds cannot otherwise earn enough income for the client to be more than the cost of securing that income. The client – and not the IOLTA program – receives the interest if the funds are large enough or will be held for a long enough period of time to generate net interest that is sufficient to allocate directly to the client.”
Cheatham’s family has been able to make full restitution to the victims, some of whom had over $100,000 stolen from the account.
“To conceal his deceit, Cheatham showed his clients phony documents and provided false excuses regarding their money.”
“Mr. Cheatham violated his position of trust as an attorney, and even more egregiously, did so against elderly clients,” ADA David Williamson said. “It is unique that the State was able to secure full restitution upfront for all the victims, however, that does not excuse the Defendant’s behavior and the violation of the oath the Defendant took as an attorney to uphold the law. As a result, Mr. Cheatham will never practice law again and will never work in any sort position of trust, especially around the elderly.”
The charges were racketeering, unlicensed practice of law, six counts of theft, and four counts of elder exploitation.
Cheatham was sentenced to 20 years, one year to be served, by Cobb Superior Court Judge C. LaTain Kell. Since he has been in custody for more than a year, he will be released with time served.
The judge further ordered that “the Defendant is not allowed to ever practice law again, is now a convicted felon, and can never act as an agent, trustee, fiduciary, or work in any position, whether paid or volunteer, where he is responsible for the care or finances of another person. “