Liberty attorney sentenced for stealing victim restitution funds

Prison Sentence

A Liberty, Mo., attorney was sentenced in federal court for obstruction of justice after stealing funds earmarked for victim restitution. 

Robert J. Young II, 48, of Liberty, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Beth Phillips to three years and one month in federal prison without parole.

On Nov. 6, 2017, Young was found guilty of one count of obstruction of justice at the conclusion of a one-day bench trial.

Young represented defendant Rodney J. Tatum, who was indicted by a federal grand jury and convicted of mail fraud in connection with the embezzlement of funds from his employer. Young obstructed justice by embezzling money that was given to him by Tatum’s family for the purpose of paying restitution to the victim in the criminal case. Young instead made numerous transfers of restitution funds into his personal bank account. Young then spent restitution funds to purchase a motorcycle for himself, to make numerous cash withdrawals, to make rent payments and to make retail purchases.

Young utilized an Interest on Lawyers Trust Account to accept four separate deposits from Tatum’s wife for the purpose of making restitution. Tatum’s wife also made one deposit into Young’s business account for restitution purposes. These checks totaled $42,412. In addition, Young advised Tatum’s wife to draft a check, made payable to Young, as the FBI was pursuing money laundering charges against Tatum and the Tatums’ joint checking account would be frozen. Young stated he would be able to protect the funds in his business account. Tatum’s wife gave Young a check for $20,000. Young had been expected to provide this total $62,412 as partial victim restitution at Tatum’s sentencing hearing on Jan. 21, 2016.

Young was not able to provide the restitution at Tatum’s sentencing hearing and falsely informed the court that the proceeds of assets sold on behalf of Tatum were in his Missouri Lawyer’s Trust Fund. The $62,412 in restitution eventually was paid after Young was relieved from the case and a federal public defender was appointed to represent Tatum. The sentencing hearing was continued to March 3, 2016, at which time the court ordered Tatum to pay a total of $442,810 in restitution. Tatum was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison. 

Today’s sentence also reflected Young’s conduct during the trial in which he perjured himself by lying under oath when he claimed that the money he took was legitimate fees for his services. According to court documents, Tatum had already paid Young $11,500 in legal fees and Young had agreed that the additional funds would be used for restitution.

According to court documents, Young had 11 pending complaints (including the Tatums’ complaint) with the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel at the time of his indictment. Those complaints included one from an individual who retained Young to represent him in a traffic matter and had given Young money to pay the fine. However, Young never paid the fine and the individual was later arrested on an outstanding warrant. The other nine complaints were allegations that clients had paid Young money for representation and he had not provided any services.

Young’s license to practice law was suspended on Aug. 23, 2016.