Prominent Columbia attorney John Fitzgerald O’Connor Jr., pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering. The 63-year-old tax attorney could face five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The plea comes in a case involving one of O'Connor's former clients, William J. Trier II, of Aiken. Trier was accused of embezzling millions of dollars from his employer, Crane Co., a vending machine manufacturing company in Aiken County. As the director of logistics in the shipping department, Trier created false invoices for two fictitious companies, approved them for payment and collected the payments at a post office box he opened as the mailing addresses for the phantom companies.
According to the U.S. Attorney's office in Columbia, Trier collected more than five million dollars between 1997 and 2007. He hired O'Connor in Columbia and Aiken attorney John W. Harte, after he learned he was being investigated.
According to a news release from U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles, "O’Connor admitted to being involved in a conspiracy to liquidate and conceal monies and property which had been stolen by" his former client.
Harte, 63, pleaded guilty in September to "conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering."
Trier pleaded guilty to mail fraud and money laundering on April 30, 2008 and was sentenced to 63 months in jail, ordered to pay $5,272,556 in restitution, and to forfeit millions of dollars in assets.
Sentencing dates for O'Connor and Harte have not been announced.