Fraud case: Prominent Columbia lawyers face life in prison, $8M fines - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Fraud case: Prominent Columbia lawyers face life in prison, $8M fines

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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Two prominent Columbia attorneys face a combined $7.75 million in fines and 550 years in prison for their role in a massive fraud and money laundering case, prosecutors say.

U.S. Attorney W. Walter Wilkins said Columbia attorneys John Fitzgerald O'Connor, Jr., 63, and Michael D. Shavo, 38, were arraigned in federal court Tuesday on 17 charges of conspiracy to launder stolen money, commit mail fraud and mislead federal investigators. O'Connor was also charged with obstructing a federal investigation, and Shavo was charged with lying to federal investigators.

Bond was set at $75,000 for each defendant, and both were ordered to surrender their passports stay in the state while awaiting trial.    

Officials say the attorneys' client, William J. Trier II, of Aiken, embezzled a large amount of money from his employer. According to the indictment, O'Connor and Shavo devised a plan to hide the stolen money by transferring it to numerous shell corporations they set up for Trier. 

Trier pled guilty to mail fraud and money laundering in 2008, and was recently sentenced to 63 months in federal prison, ordered to pay $5.2 million in restitution, and to forfeit millions of dollars in assets.

An Aiken attorney, John W. Harte, Jr., 63, pled guilty on September 18 to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering for his role in the scheme. Harte is awaiting sentencing.

If convicted on all counts, O'Connor faces a maximum sentence of 280 years in prison and a fine of $4 million. Shavo faces a maximum sentence of 270 years in prison and a fine of $3.75 million. Both men also face forfeiture of assets if convicted.

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