Daniel D. Whitworth, 58, of Joplin, waived his right to a grand jury and pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge David P. Rush to a three-count federal information that charges him with wire fraud, money laundering and false statements on tax returns.
Whitworth was the owner of a law practice in Joplin. By pleading guilty today, Whitworth admitted that he embezzled approximately $586,739 from 22 of his legal clients between 2004 and Oct. 18, 2013. Whitworth spent these embezzled funds on personal loans and items unrelated to the legal matters of his clients.
Law enforcement officers investigated complaints made to the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel of the Missouri Supreme Court about Whitworthâ€™s theft of client money. Investigators determined from bank records and speaking with former clients that Whitworth repeatedly took money from and for clients. He claimed that money would be used to resolve the matter that the client had pending before the court. In many instances, Whitworth deposited the clientâ€™s money either into his attorney trust account or into his personal bank accounts. After depositing his clientâ€™s money, Whitworth would then withdraw money and pay for personal expenses and items that were entirely unrelated to his clientâ€™s legal case.
Whitworth also admitted that he failed to report the embezzled funds on his personal income tax returns for the years 2009-2011, which the plea agreement says totaled $448,835. Whitworth did not file an income tax return for 2012, according to the plea agreement, and therefore did not report the embezzled funds during this year as well.
Under the terms of todayâ€™s plea agreement, Whitworth must surrender his license to practice law in any and all jurisdictions and forfeit to the government a $586,739 money judgment.
Under federal statutes, Whitworth is subject to a sentence of up to 33 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $750,000 and an order of restitution. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Carney. It was investigated by the Missouri Highway Patrol and IRS-Criminal Investigation.