A former longtime Bridgeport attorney who specialized in civil and criminal litigation was sentenced Friday afternoon to 78 months in prison for his role in stealing about $2 million from clients, friends and family members.
U.S. District Judge Michael Shea of the District of Connecticut sentenced 62-year-old Thomas Murtha to 78 months’ imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release. Shea also ordered Murtha, who was a partner and managing member of the defunct Maher & Murtha, to pay total restitution of $1.99 million, and to forfeit his interests in a house he owns in Michigan and a 2.11-carat diamond engagement ring that the government said he improperly seized.
Prosecutors said Murtha operated a long-term fraud with more than 20 victims, including a client suffering from mental illness. Murtha resigned from the Connecticut Bar in September 2016 after three grievance complaints accused him of defrauding multiple victims, beginning around November 2011. He pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of wire fraud.
But the government’s sentencing memorandum suggests the onetime attorney is unrepentant.
“Even now, after pleading guilty in May 2018, he has not paid restitution to any of his victims,” the memo states. “Indeed, his sentencing submissions underscore his failure to fully grasp the pain and damage he has caused, and his continuing efforts to justify his criminal conduct.”
By contrast, the defendant’s memorandum in aid of sentencing states: “Regardless of the appropriate guidelines range (of sentencing) and loss amount, Mr. Murtha’s history and characteristics, his charitable nature, and the aberrant nature of this offense from a life lived as a kind, loving, generous and law-abiding man, warrant a non-guidelines sentence of 36 months incarcerated.”
Murtha’s victims, court papers say, included a brother and sister and their deceased cousin, who jointly owned a three-family house in Shelton. Murtha handled the cousin’s estate and the sale of the home.
The complaints also accuse Murtha of forging documents from a mortgage and trust. The government claims he used the money to purchase a $725,000 home in Michigan and the engagement ring. Prosecutors said Murtha stole about $2 million from more than 20 individuals, including stealing more than $500,000 from an individual with mental health issues. As part of the scheme, the government said, Murtha submitted false or forged documents to victims. He also incurred charges on credit cards in the names of others without their knowledge or permission, the government said.
In addition to the Michigan house and the engagement ring, the government said Murtha’s ill-gotten gains included the purchase and care of show horses.
Murtha practiced law in Connecticut for 35 years, from 1981 to 2016. He was represented by Moira Buckley, an assistant federal defender out of Hartford. Buckley did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jennifer Laraia and David Huang prosecuted the case. Thomas Carson, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Connecticut, declined to comment.