LEXINGTON COUNTY, SC (WIS) - The federal attorney hired to defend a well-known Lexington attorney against federal extortion charges says his client is broke.
According to a Federal indictment, Richard Breibart is charged with four counts of mail fraud, five counts of extortion under the Hobbs Act, and wire transmission in furtherance of scheme.
Breibart, a 30-year legal veteran, is accused of defrauding clients, former clients and their family members out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Prosecutors say Breibart would lead his victims to believe they were under a criminal investigation and in danger of losing their assets. They say Breibart told them to put the money in his trust account for protection. Instead, prosecutors say Breibart used that money for himself.
In some cases, prosecutors say Breibart extorted money that his victims pulled from their retirement savings.
The government accuses Breibart of scaring clients into thinking they or someone close to them are about to become targets of IRS investigations or civil actions.
The U-S Attorney's office says those clients turned over a total of more than a $1 million to Breibart who then used it for other purposes including personal expenses and paying staff at the firm he ran in Lexington.
Until those offices shut down abruptly in June, Breibart seemed to be a highly successful, influential veteran of the Midlands legal community.
But in a motion filed Friday, Breibart's public defender says his client has no monthly income and can't raise the $10,000 needed to be released from jail.
Federal defender John Hare says in fact, Breibart has a "negative net worth of $24,000."
Sources familiar with Breibart tell WIS News 10 that he has struggled with money issues for years and he had a habit of asking friends for short term loans.
The motion asked for a reduction in Briebart's $100,000 bond, noting that he has no criminal record and"was a respected member of the South Carolina Bar."
A hearing on the bond reduction issue could be held early next week.
Breibart's law license was suspended by the state Supreme Court several months ago. The court also ordered appointment of a trustee to protect Breibart's clients and prohibited him from accessing any of the office's accounts.
Breibart is being held at the Lexington County Detention Center.