Michael Rene Berlon, 55, Grayson, Georgia, former attorney, has been arraigned on federal charges of mail and wire fraud in Utah for his role in defrauding clients in an advance fee loan scam.
According to the charges, and other information presented in court: Berlon, who practiced in Grayson, Ga., through his law firm, the Law Office of Michael R. Berlon, is charged with obtaining funds from clients of his law firm and other individuals through false pretenses.
The indictment alleges that in one instance, Berlon obtained money from two individuals who were looking for his assistance with starting a new business. He told the victims that he would help them get a loan, but they were required to provide a percentage of the requested loan amount as a down payment. Instead of assisting them with obtaining a loan, Berlon used the funds for his personal expenses and debts. In total, it is alleged that Berlon received at least $1.8 million in client funds from 2008-2013.
The indictment also alleges that some clients provided money to him believing that he would create a trust for them, and would hold the funds in trust. Instead, Berlon used the funds for personal expenses, including to pay his American Express bill and to repay other clients.
Berlon was arraigned before Linda T. Walker, United States Magistrate Judge. He was indicted by a federal grand jury on September 9, 2014.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
United States Sally Quillian Attorney Yates,
Assistant United States Attorney Jamie L. Mickelson is prosecuting the case.
“This defendant is charged with defrauding his own clients out of over $1.8 million,” said United States Attorney Yates. “They came to him for legal help, and instead he drained their bank accounts.”
J. Britt Johnson, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, stated: “Individuals relying on the professionalism and trust of individuals like Mr. Berlon should be able to turn to someone when that trust is violated. The FBI, in being well positioned to investigate such allegations involving the diversion of funds through mail and wire fraud, is that someone.”