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Forensic accountant enters not guilty plea in federal court

Posted on February 24, 2010 3:00 AM EST

An attorney/forensic accountant who formerly ran a well-known accounting firm entered a not guilty plea in federal court. Lewis Freeman attended his bond hearing, where U.S. Federal Court Magistrate Judge Robert Dube set a $1 million bond. Freeman is charged with fraud based on information that alleges that he embezzled more than $2.6 million from clients' trust accounts. Since the alleged scheme to defraud broke last fall, Freeman has been cooperating with federal law enforcement officers and prosecutors. Freeman appeared in court with his criminal defense team and entered not guilty pleas to charges of conspiracy and mail fraud. His Miami criminal defense lawyers told reporters that, "Freeman is prepared to stand before the court and to accept the consequences for his actions."

Freeman, charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and mail fraud has appeared to have accepted responsibility for his actions and is attempting to cooperate with government authorities. Because of his cooperation, it is greatly expected that he will enter a guilty plea in federal court in the not too distant future. Freeman's criminal defense team is hoping that the cooperation will lead to a significant sentence reduction supported by the government and issued by the presiding judge. While the federal sentencing guidelines dictate a prison sentence of 10 to 20 years, significant cooperation with the federal government can lead to significantly less incarceration.

The information charges Freeman with stealing money from at least 250 clients while he was acting as their court appointed receiver. He acted as the receiver in many South Florida fraud and bankruptcy cases. On top of the theft allegations, he is accused of filing false financial statements to cover up the 10 year embezzlement scheme to defraud. People familiar with the case believe that two other individuals will be charged in the near future as co-conspirators. One of those involved is probably the chief financial officer of Freeman's company. The information specifically alleges that Freeman issued himself approximately 162 checks with a value of $6 million from the accounts of former businesses for which he was acting as a receiver. On a positive note, Freeman returned about half of the money he purportedly took. The interesting part of the case is how the federal judge will view the man who stole from victims that the courts appointed him to protect.

Federal prosecutors and agents bashed the former Miami forensic accountant by stating, "This is a classic case of how greed can slowly corrupt a person who started out with good intentions, it turns out that the wolf was protecting the hen house for the last ten years." The acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida is claiming that Freeman stole to support his lavish lifestyle. His defense team said that he was just trying to correct business mistakes. Both parties will be able to make those arguments to the federal judge when the sentencing hearing takes place.

Miami's "Go-To" Forensic Accountant Pleads Not Guilty to Fraud, The Miami Herald, February 24, 2010.
Categories: Fraud