A former Billings lawyer with a felony record of stealing from clients Tuesday admitted he again stole from clients.
Appearing in federal court, Marvin Earl “Toby’’ Alback, 62, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and bankruptcy fraud for misappropriating money from clients for his own personal use.
In December, the Montana Supreme Court ordered disciplinary action against Alback, who resigned his license in September amid misconduct allegations.
In his first appearance on federal allegations, Alback admitted to charges in an information and waived his right to a grand jury indictment. He appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn Ostby, who will recommend his guilty plea be accepted by Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Archer said that in the bankruptcy fraud, Alback was hired by a family in March 2008 to represent them in a bankruptcy case. When the family had trouble making their mortgage payment, Alback told them to write their settlement and mortgage payments to him and he would deposit the money with the bank.
Alback deposited the money into his trust account and never made the payments on the mortgage. Although he eventually paid back the money, he caused significant back payments and late fees to avoid foreclosure, Archer said.
The investigation also found that Alback obtained the family’s $557 tax refund check for 2008 and deposited it into his business account. He used the money for personal expenses. The refund check belonged to the bankruptcy estate, Archer said.
In the wire fraud, Alback represented another client in a lawsuit that was settled for $12,500 in August 2009 and a check was written to his client. While Alback was entitled to a share of the settlement, he forged his client’s name without her knowledge, deposited the $12,500 into his account and used it for his personal benefit. The client received a check for her settlement in October 2009, but it bounced and she has not received any money that was paid to settle the suit.
Alback faces a maximum 20 years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine on the wire fraud.
Under the terms of a plea agreement, the government will not pursue additional charges and will not seek sentenc-ing enhancements for using sophisticated means or there being vulnerable victims. Alback also waived his right to appeal his conviction and sentence as long as the sentence is within the guideline range. The judge will determine the guideline range at sentencing. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
Ostby continued Alback’s release.
In 1987, Alback was sentenced to 16 years at Montana State Prison with 13 years suspended for felony theft. Alback, who worked in Bozeman at the time, admitted stealing more than $95,000 from two clients. He was disbarred and his license was reinstated in 2000.
More recently, Alback was accused of violating attorney rules of conduct by failing to properly represent a Billings woman in a Yellowstone County Justice Court case filed in 2007. He also was being investigated for at least one other complaint. Even though Alback resigned his license in September, the Montana Supreme Court said that did not prevent it from imposing sanctions on him for misconduct.