Local News

Missing Chapel Hill Attorney Charged With Embezzlement

Posted July 27, 2006
Updated March 30, 2007

— The State Bureau of Investigation Wednesday issued a warrant charging a missing Chapel Hill attorney with embezzlement.

John McCormick vanished on July 10, around the same time that more than $1 million disappeared from his clients' bank accounts.

Investigators suspect McCormick stole more than $800,000 from homebuilder DR Horton. A Chapel Hill couple also claims McCormick owes them about $300,000.

The single embezzlement count is the first criminal charge filed in the case. However, Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said there could be more.

Woodall also said that McCormick has been entered into an international database that would alert law enforcement officials elsewhere about his status.

"He can be arrested anywhere in the country and actually out of the country," said Woodall. "Law enforcement will still have access to the information that he is wanted by authorities here."

Authorities found McCormick's car abandoned at the Orange County entrance to Duke Forest. He has not been seen since. Investigators do not suspect foul play.

At his former law offices, his name was still displayed on the sign out front on Wednesday. But inside, former colleague Chris Willett is now in charge of McCormick's practice.

"What we're doing is winding down John's practice," said Willett.

Willett has worked for McCormick the last six years. He's now going through McCormick's records and making contact with his clients.

"If there's a court date, for instance, we're going to show up and ask for a continuance," he said. "We're going to preserve our clients' rights as best we can while we find someone who can better protect them."

Woodall said his office so far has fielded 10 to 12 calls from people inquiring about their dealings with McCormick. He has referred them to the State Bar Association.

"Personally, I hope McCormick is safe and that if he knows he's wanted and that these charges exist, he'll come forward and take care of this responsibly," he said.

Since his disappearance, McCormick has been fired as the attorney for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro public schools. Anyone with information about McCormick's whereabouts should contact local authorities.


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