Atlanta lawyer pleads guilty to fraud

An Atlanta lawyer pleaded guilty to defrauding 50 clients out of more than $300,000 by having money they put in his firm’s trust account transferred to a private account out of state.

Thomas Dickson, 52, faces sentencing Oct. 30 on wire fraud charges. In addition to a possible prison sentence of up to 20 years, he faces a possible fine of up to $250,000.

Prosecutors said Dickson was working at a large Atlanta law firm, which was not identified, when he was hired to represent investors in the bankruptcy filing of an Idaho commercial real estate company that had sold them investments.

Prosecutors said Dickson persuaded the investors, who were “tenants in common,” or investors who shared ownership of commercial property, to transfer rents and other income into his law firm’s trust account. Dickson then directed his law firm’s accounting department to unlawfully transfer more than $300,000 from the trust account to a personal business checking account controlled by him and his wife, who was not identified.

The firm discovered the fraud after initiating an internal investigation in January 2012 and then fired Dickson. He was disbarred by the Georgia State Bar in March 2013.