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Ex-lawyer pleads guilty to embezzlement

Posted May 1, 2008

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— A former Chapel Hill lawyer who was on the run for more than a year was sentenced Thursday to at least nine years in prison for stealing more than $800,000 from clients.

John Gregory McCormick, 60, pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement and four lesser theft charges. He was sentenced to 108 to 139 months in prison.

"I don't know what I was thinking," McCormick said in court Thursday while apologizing to his family, friends and clients.

He said he never intended to hurt anyone and should never have run off.

McCormick went missing on July 13, 2006, when his car was found abandoned at an Orange County entrance to Duke Forest. At about the same time, authorities began looking into allegations that money was missing from the accounts of McCormick's clients.

Although the charges against McCormick were for the theft of $802,000, Gil Whitford, an agent in the State Bureau of Investigation's financial crimes unit, testified Thursday that authorities have documented at least $1.6 million was stolen from McCormick's clients.

Police arrested McCormick last August in Phoenix, where he was found sitting on a park bench with two homeless men. He had 6 cents in his pocket at the time.

The arrest ended a 13-month international search that included checks of airline passenger lists, credit card records and other databases for a trace of the missing attorney. At one point, he reportedly was seen in Central or South America.

FBI agents searched for McCormick in Spain to follow a tip that he had been seen there, prosecutors said Thursday. Defense attorneys said he was never in Spain and spent much of his time in New Orleans, where he was robbed, and Phoenix, where he wound up in a homeless shelter.

Prosecutors called McCormick arrogant and selfish, saying he was an alcoholic with a drug habit. The defense painted a different picture as it sought a lenient sentence, calling him kind, thoughtful and gentle.

Before he left town, attorneys noted, he deposited $35,000 in his children's bank accounts.

A bankruptcy court liquidated McCormick's estate in December, and defense attorneys said clients from whom he stole money would be repaid from the $4.4 million obtained in the sales.

McCormick also represented Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools for 20 years, but district officials said he never had any access to school funds.

The North Carolina State Bar disbarred McCormick a year ago, ruling that he had violated ethics rules.

Federal authorities also have charged him with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.


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  • colliedave May 2, 2008

    I guess the chickens have come home to roost

  • Dr. Dataclerk May 2, 2008

    OH, the $35,000 should have been used to pay back the victims. His children should have lost on this one. It was stolen money for sure. He is not a poster man. :(

  • Dr. Dataclerk May 2, 2008

    He is now reaping what he has sown?

  • nonemeant May 2, 2008

    "before he left town, he deposited $35,000 in his kids' bank account." Huh?? This was part of the stolen cache of loot he had embezzled.
    This definitely would have been better left unsaid if the intent was to portray this gentleman as a benevolent dad. He was robbed in New Orleans and ended up homeless with 6 cents in Phoenix.
    He certainly is a poster boy for reaping what you sow.
    Like I tell my daughter and her friends - Crime does not pay; you pay crime.

  • pedsRN01 May 1, 2008

    I rented an apartment in Chapel Hill from this man, and I can tell you, he was a slum lord of the worst kind. My apartment was broken into once...they kicked the front door down to get in. I notified him about it, and he said he could not get someone to fix it for at least 2 days. So for 2 days, my home was basically wide open for the crooks to come in...only more easily this time. My interactions with John McCormick were horrible, and he always was very condescending. He always gave teh impression he was better than I was...after all, I was renting FROM him, not him from me. There is a small part of me glad to see him in this mess...

  • howdiditgettothis May 1, 2008

    Sure - he's kind to have deposited $35k in his childrens' accounts. I'm sure they will live it up on that blood money, knowing all the folks that got bilked for it.

    This pathetic man had everything going for him, and was monetarily successful by society's standards - yet he CHOSE to become a criminal.

    If he's not a broken man now, I'd imagine those years in prison will get the job done.

    Do the crime = Do the time.

  • anneonymousone May 1, 2008

    "Prosecutors called McCormick arrogant and selfish, saying he was an alcoholic with a drug habit."

    Ahem. Alcohol IS a drug, making him, perhaps, a person with addiction who was using(or is using) drugs, whether legal or not.

    Did we learn nothing from the 80s besides the toxicity of hair spray?

  • oldschooltarheel May 1, 2008

    homeimprovement - he looks broken? You shudda seen the other guys, his victims. Lots of people were broken by his choices. It is only fitting for him to be broken as well. It's always easy to be generous with other peoples' money, right Dems?

  • mramorak May 1, 2008



    I guess that big salary that Lawyers make just does not add up to enough. It amazes me that people that make huge salaries and live in huge homes have to continue to be so greedy that they have to steal from people. Some people try all their lives to make at least a wage to survive and these so call "Hot Shot" rich people just need more. What amazes me is they are the ones that act so so sorry in criminal acts. So many people stuggle in hardships and others continue to take advantage and keep wanting to bulk up their bank accounts and can never say "thats enough" I hope you rot in that cell and end up with ZERO