Used by permission of The Times of Northwest Indiana
The son of London attorney William Gary Crabtree was found dead at his home in Dyer, Ind., Monday morning.
William Crabtree II, 46, a Laurel County native, was found hours before he was scheduled to stand trial on charges he embezzled millions of dollars from his clients between 2006 and 2008.
Lake County, Ind. Coroner David Pastrick said Crabtree’s death was not a homicide, and the cause of death remained under investigation. Dyer police called coroner’s office investigators to Crabtree’s home at 4:30 a.m. Monday, Pastrick said. Dyer police were called from inside the house about 4 a.m., Dyer Detective Cmdr. Ken Croft said.
Crabtree was a private civil lawyer in Schererville, Ind. until he was indicted in October on federal fraud charges accusing him of altering checks and faking contracts to misappropriate at least $2.2 million. The Indiana Supreme Court’s disciplinary commission moved to suspend Crabtree’s law license, but Crabtree ended that process when he resigned from the bar in January.
Crabtree’s case appeared headed for a jury trial starting Monday morning in federal court. Jury selection was slated for 8:30 a.m. before Senior Judge Rudy Lozano, but jurors had been sent home by 9 a.m.
Crabtree’s lawyer, Clark Holesinger, filed a motion Monday afternoon to continue the case while “final issues are resolved.”
Friends, neighbors and relatives gathered Monday afternoon at Crabtree’s huge home near a wealthy subdivision’s golf course. People at the home gave no statement.
Neighbor Paul Levin said word of Crabtree’s death moved swiftly Monday. Levin called Crabtree’s death “pretty shocking.”
“He was a nice guy,” Levin said.
Crabtree’s recent defense attorneys voiced surprise at his death.
“My heart goes out to the family,” Holesinger said.
“He seemed like a fine man, and I’m real disappointed,” said Kevin Milner, who represented Crabtree before Holesinger.
Before his career dissolved, Crabtree ran his one-lawyer practice in an office along Indianapolis Boulevard in Schererville, representing clients in civil lawsuits. His name is still posted on the sign at the gleaming office building, although his former office is now empty.
He also gave time to local nonprofit groups including the Campagna Academy. He once served as president of the Hoosier Boys Town Foundation, the funding group for Campagna’s precursor. He also served on the board of the Partnership for a Drug Free Lake County.
Crabtree’s criminal case stemmed from an alleged scheme involving clients’ tax payments and land deals. Federal authorities said that in September and October 2007, the daughter of a dead man gave Crabtree checks worth $394,636 to pay taxes on her father’s estate. But Crabtree changed the name on the checks and kept the money, then forged receipts and e-mails to illustrate tax payments he didn’t make, according to the charges.
Federal prosecutors said Crabtree also schemed a second client. Crabtree persuaded that client to invest with him in a Chicago condominium project, federal authorities said. Prosecutors said the investment was not made, and Crabtree embezzled $387,000 from that scheme, according to the criminal complaint.
Crabtree stole from that client again, according to the charges. Using his company, Great Lakes Title & Trust, Crabtree accepted millions of dollars in proceeds from that client’s business and land sales, claiming the money was being held in accounts for the client, prosecutors claimed.
When the first client, the dead man’s daughter, discovered the taxes weren’t paid, she hired a new lawyer to investigate, prosecutors said. In June 2008, Crabtree paid $785,980 to the dead man’s estate, but he used the second client’s money, according to the charges. When the second client asked Crabtree to wire $1.7 million to buy another business, Crabtree could only send $168,721, prosecutors said. Crabtree admitted he didn’t have the second client’s money, but he later faxed a copy of a fake check for $1.2 million to the client’s attorney, aiming to convince that attorney the money would be repaid, prosecutors said.
Used by permission of The Times of Northwest Indiana
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