The South Carolina Supreme Court announced on Wednesday that it has disbarred Richard Breibart, a once-prominent Lexington lawyer who swindled clients out of millions.
The Supreme Court’s decision was unanimous.
In disbarring Breibart, the Supreme Court said he cannot apply for re-admission until he has completed all terms and conditions of his criminal sentence and has paid more than $315,000 in restitution to clients.
Breibart in August 2013 pleaded guilty to mail fraud, admitting that he fleeced 13 clients of $2.5 million. He had cheated perhaps more than 100 clients out of substantial sums of money, according to his own admissions and information provided by attorneys.
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He was sentenced in March 2014 to five years and three months in prison. Then 63, Breibart argued that he was “very poor health” and that his severe physical and mental problems should keep him out of prison.
Breibart, whose firm once employed 12 lawyers and even more employees, had been an interim suspension since June 2012, according to the Supreme Court ruling.
Court documents said Breibart criminally swindled some clients out of money and took money from others to handle cases and did little work in return.
In some cases, he told clients who trusted him they were being investigated by the IRS or that a family member was being investigated by the FBI and that they needed to turn over their savings to him quickly so he could protect those assets during the supposed investigation, according to the indictment. He then spent the money, officials said.
Prosecutors have refused to say how Breibart spent the millions he stole. The disbarment ruling says in some cases, he used the money to pay for “expenses and obligations relating to his law firm, to himself personally and to other clients.”
Some clients sued him. Others filed claims totaling $5.6 million with the state’s Lawyers’ Fund and received judgments of nearly $1.7 million, according to the ruling released Wednesday. But because of the cap on payments, the Lawyers’ Fund paid only $200,000 to the claimants, most of whom only received a small percentage of the amount approved.