A Florence attorney has pleaded guilty to defrauding his clients of millions.
William Rivers III, 48, pleaded guilty to mail fraud Friday, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Authorities began investigating after some of Rivers’ clients complained to the South Carolina Bar Association. Between 2006 and 2012, prosecutors say more than 100 clients were defrauded of more than $3.3 million total.
The Bar’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel began investigating the Schurlknight & Rivers firm in 2012. Rivers’ partner John Schurlknight committed suicide in November 2012, prosecutors said.
Authorities say Rivers settled personal injury cases but did not tell their clients or medical providers about the settlement money, instead keeping it for themselves. Prosecutors said fraud against twenty-four of the victims was directly attributable to Rivers’ actions, causing losses of approximately $1.25 million. 22 clients of the firm sued Schurlknight’s estate last year, saying the attorney and his family lived a lavish lifestyle while his clients struggled with medical problems, injury, and unemployment.
Rivers will face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 when he’s sentenced. Judge Terry Wooten accepted the plea Friday and will rule at a later date after reading a presentence report.