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Former Greenwich attorney Roland R. Hicks was sentenced today to 37 months in prison for embezzling over $1.2 million from clients and defrauding investors in a dot.com business called “LawWeb.” The sentence imposed by U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Bree Burns on a single count of mail fraud was the top of the range of imprisonment stipulated by the parties when Hicks pled guilty on June 21. Hicks, 49, was a practicing attorney in Greenwich in 2000 when he incorporated LawWeb Inc., a start-up Internet business that was to offer online private placement variable life insurance, according to documents filed in the case. Hicks convinced “seemingly sophisticated” people to invest in his company, and misrepresented the business’ assets in purported balance sheets he sent to the investors, Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul A. Murphy wrote in court papers. Eventually, Hicks sent investors a shareholder buyout agreement that included checks with the amount of their investment plus a premium. Those “buyout” checks were worthless, and Hicks admitted in his plea bargain that he used the investors’ money for his own personal use. Holding himself out as an attorney with expertise in trust-and-estate law, Hicks took over $2.2 million from one client who instructed Hicks to fund an annuity for his wife as part of a property settlement in a pending divorce, court papers revealed. Hicks admitted that he converted at least $1 million of the client’s money for his own personal use. Some of the money he used as a down payment on a house, according to Murphy. Restitution ordered “It is our hope that this prosecution will serve as a deterrent to any professional or other individual who solicits investment capital and abuses his or her position of authority and defrauds innocent clients and investors,” U.S. Attorney Kevin J. O’Connor stated. “We will prosecute these crimes vigorously and seek restitution for victims.” In addition to the three-year prison term, Burns imposed three years of supervised release and ordered restitution of $1.5 million. Hicks was represented in district court by Federal Public Defender Paul F. Thomas. Thomas argued for a 30-month sentence, describing Hicks’s thefts as “good intentions gone terribly awry� . [C]lients and investors were betrayed by a cascade of bad judgment, self-interest, and ultimately, fraudulent misrepresentations. Regardless of what he had hoped to accomplish, the result was disastrous,” Thomas wrote. Thomas described Hicks as “a talented man” who threw away a lifetime of hard-earned accomplishments. Hicks suffered from an emotionally abusive father and from severe facial disfigurement as a child, Thomas wrote. At age four, a benign tumor began to grow on Hicks’s nose, provoking severe taunting from peers and social ostracism. By the age of 14, Hicks had undergone nine operations during summer school vacations and had been hospitalized for one to three weeks on each occasion, Thomas said. By the age of 28, Hicks had 17 surgeries. Despite such daunting adversity, Hicks graduated from New York University Law School while married and starting a family. He began a career in insurance, working first for Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. and then for Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. as an independent contractor until 2002. He opened his law practice in 1999; by 2000, he developed the concept for the LawWeb business, Thomas wrote. Hicks pled guilty in Stamford Superior Court in June to two counts of larceny in the first degree and one count of larceny in the third degree. An eight-year sentence current to his federal sentence is anticipated, according to a statement released today by O’Connor. Hicks’s law license was suspended for 15 years in July 2005 by Hartford Superior Court Judge Vanessa Bryant for mishandling clients’ funds.

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