NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

July 16, 2013

Merrimac lawyer guilty in embezzlement scheme

(Continued)

The defendant used clients’ money for family vacations to Malaysia, Club Med, Cancun and Aruba, expensive cars including Hummers, Cadillacs and Land Rovers, and thousands of dollars in monthly personal expenses. Functionally, the defendant operated a Ponzi scheme by using a small portion of the money from clients’ investments to pay debts due to other clients, according to prosecutors.

All monies collected from the clients or from mortgages arranged for the Crest Group clients were deposited into the law firm’s lawyer’s trust accounts, managed by Unitt. According to the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers, that money is held by the attorney in behalf of the client and is not to be expended for purposes unrelated to representation of the client, unless so authorized by the client. Almost $800,000 of client funds were misappropriated and stolen from the law firm’s client trust accounts.

Lee Unitt also embezzled investment money from a married couple whom she had befriended. The wife had been involved in an automobile accident and Lee Unitt again recommended refinancing their home and investment properties and investing the new mortgage proceeds in an international real estate investment pool. Lee Unitt promised a return of 11 percent or greater. The victims entrusted over $500,000 to Lee Unitt from refinancing proceeds and from their savings for retirement. Neither of the victims ever received an accounting as to the status of their investments nor has any of their money been returned.

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