Not long before Atlanta real estate lawyer Nathan Hardwick IV began what allegedly turned into a $20 million-plus embezzlement scheme, according to prosecutors, he reaped a $14 million profit from the sale of a business.
Hardwick, 50, was arrested in February on dozens of charges related to his alleged theft from his former law firm. Investigators said he spent millions of dollars of embezzled and fraudulently borrowed money on gambling and expensive homes. He faces up to 34 years in federal prison if convicted.
The alleged thefts and resulting scandal, first exposed in a lawsuit by Hardwick’s law firm partners in 2014, led to the law firm’s bankruptcy and collapse. The law firm, which changed its name to Morris Schneider Wittstadt after Hardwick’s resignation, once employed almost 900 people and had offices in 16 states.
Now it is trying to recover some of the cash Harwick allegedly stole and from the firms where he spent it. Hardwick’s former law firm and a related title company have sued at least two casinos and a private jet operator. They want the firms to return almost $5.5 million received from Hardwick.
But Hardwick’s money troubles began years earlier, after a 2008 divorce in which he agreed to pay $550,000 a year in alimony, for five years. During the proceedings, his second ex-wife, Julie Hardwick, discovered her husband had concealed $14 million he reaped from the sale of a business in 2007, according to investigators.
Despite that windfall, Hardwick far exceeded his income due to the high alimony payments and his already extravagant lifestyle, according to prosecutors’ court filings.
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