Former Georgia Democrat party chairman sentenced to 5 years in prison

Former Georgia Democrat party chairman Michael Berlon has been sentenced to five years, three months in federal prison for stealing more than $2 million from clients, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Atlanta announced Friday.

Convicted of wire fraud after pleading guilty in February, the former attorney must also pay restitution to more than a dozen victims prosecutors say he defrauded in his legal practice. He had faced a maximum of 20 years in federal prison.

Berlon, 55, was indicted last year. Prosecutors said he defrauded clients and others who sought his legal advice for nearly six years, from 2008 to 2014. They said he told the clients that he would hold their funds in a trust for safe-keeping, or that he would use the funds to resolve a financial or legal problem on a client’s behalf.

Instead, they said Berlon used the funds for his own benefit to make personal purchases, pay travel expenses and, in some instances, repay other clients.

An attorney based out of Grayson, Berlon gave up his law license last June.

He led the state Democratic party from 2011 to May 2013.