Tuesday, May 30, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Missouri Attorney Is|Really in the Soup

ST. LOUIS (CN) - A St. Charles, Mo., attorney with a troubled record was arrested on federal bank fraud and identity theft charges.

Jeffrey Witt, 39, was indicted by a federal grand jury in December on one count of bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.

FBI agents arrested Witt on Friday when he landed at Kennedy International Airport in New York on an inbound flight from Istanbul, Turkey.

According to the indictment, which was under seal until late Friday evening, Witt submitted a false loan application in the name of a person known as P.W. The application was used to secure a $100,000 line of credit secured by P.W.'s home. P.W. was not aware the loan application had been made in her name.

Witt allegedly provided an associate with the false documentation so the associate could impersonate P.W. at the loan closing. Witt immediately withdrew $60,000 from the line of credit and used it for personal expenses, according to the indictment.

Authorities say P.W. found out about the loan and confronted Witt about it.

Witt told P.W. he had canceled the loan - and created a false letter on fake bank letterhead with a forged signature of a bank officer along with a false Deed of Release document to try to persuade P.W. he was telling the truth, the indictment states.

Witt went missing late last year after legal problems involving clients surfaced, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

In October 2013, Missouri's Chief Disciplinary Counsel filed a 10-count complaint against him, claiming Witt had lied to the court and clients, missed deadlines and hearings, mishandled money, failed to file necessary documents and failed to tell clients that an employee was a disbarred former lawyer and felon.

Witt was arrested in Clayton, Mo. on Oct. 15, 2013, after he struck a vehicle while parking his car around 2 p.m. The police report stated that he failed a field sobriety test and was lethargic, the Post-Dispatch reported. He refused a blood sobriety test and was ticketed for driving under the influence.

One week later, on Oct. 22, a St. Louis County judge entered nearly a $1 million verdict against Witt and his firm in a malpractice lawsuit filed in 2011.

Witt has been sued by five clients since 2010 for legal malpractice. The former clients who won the Oct. 22 verdict sued again in November for nonpayment of that judgment.

Before his legal issues, Witt gained attention as one of the lawyers who helped crack a high-profile bombing case in 2008. Milton Ohlsen is serving a 20-year term in federal prison for the bombing that nearly killed an attorney. Ohlsen's victim was actually someone else and the attorney was the victim of mistaken identity.

If convicted of the newly unsealed charges, Witt faces up to 30 years in prison and $1 million in fines for bank fraud and a mandatory 2-year prison sentence consecutive to any other terms of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine for identity theft.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.