R.I. attorney admits to Ponzi scheme costing clients $250K

PROVIDENCE – A Rhode Island personal injury lawyer pleaded guilty to wire fraud and tax evasion after admitting to conducting Ponzi scheme, U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island Zachary A. Cunha announced Tuesday.

Peter P.D. Leach admitted in federal court to defrauding clients by misappropriating more than $500,000 in client settlement funds and that he took evasive steps to conceal his ill-gotten gains from the IRS while failing to pay more than $250,000 in taxes.

Leach said that from 2014-2019, he took multiple steps to conceal his gains from the IRS, including making false statements on IRS forms regarding his assets; making false statements to IRS revenue officers about his ability and willingness to pay his taxes and about his withdrawal of more than $540,000 of cash from his IOLTA accounts for payment of personal expenses; and by transferring money from his client account to the account of family members to make personal payments.

In addition, Leach admitted that he forged client signatures and deposited client settlement checks into his attorney accounts, using those funds to pay personal expenses and to repay earlier clients whose funds he had embezzled. To prolong his scheme, Leach repeatedly made false representations to clients about the status of their cases and told them that he would pay their medical expenses and other bills with settlement funds he had received.

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An investigation by the R.I.  State Police Financial Crimes Unit and Internal Revenue Service determined that Leach’s criminal activity resulted in losses to clients of more than $250,000.

Leach is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 4, 2024.