Columbia, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Bill Nettles stated today that William J. Rivers, age 48, of Darlington, South Carolina, has entered a guilty plea in federal court in Florence, to mail fraud in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341. United States District Judge Terry L. Wooten of Florence accepted the plea and will impose sentence after he has reviewed a presentence report which will be prepared by the U.S. Probation Office.
Evidence presented at the change of plea hearing established that clients of Schurlknight & Rivers, P.A., a personal injury law firm in Florence, South Carolina, complained to the South Carolina Bar Association that they had been defrauded by William J. Rivers, III, and his partner, John L. Schurlknight. While being investigated by the office of Disciplinary Counsel of the South Carolina Supreme Court, John L. Schurlknight committed suicide. Investigation revealed that between October 2006 and November 2012, more than one hundred clients of the firm were defrauded of more than $3,300,000.00. Fraud against twenty-four of the victims was directly attributable to actions by Rivers, causing losses of approximately $1,248,000.00. Rivers defrauded his clients by settling personal injury cases, but not telling his clients that the cases had settled. Instead, the money was kept by the law firm. In addition to keeping the settlement proceeds belonging to his clients, Rivers also failed to pay medical providers with the settlement proceeds, leaving the clients owing thousands of dollars for the medical treatment they had received.
Mr. Nettles stated the maximum penalty Rivers can receive is a fine of $250,000.00 and/or imprisonment for 20 years, plus a special assessment of $100.00.
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