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Former lawyer swindles $2 million gets 6 1/2 year prison term

November 16, 2018

There was a time when Thomas Murtha was heralded as “one of the top civil litigation lawyers” in the country by Super Lawyers magazine..

But all that passed in September,2016 when he resigned from the bar amid allegations that he misappropriated nearly $1 million. That number rose to $2 million taken from at least 20 individuals according to an investigation by federal authorities.

With his reputation already gone, Murtha, 62, formerly of Newtown and currently of Birmingham, Michigan, saw his freedom go. U.S. District Judge Michael P. Shea in Hartford Friday sentenced Murtha to six and a half years in prison followed by three years of supervised release.

Murtha, who operated Maher & Murtha LLC, a Bridgeport lawfirm, pleaded guilty to wire fraud in May. He is free on bond pending the Nov. 26, 2018 start of his prison term.

“He tapped into every source available for money for his own gain and benefit,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer R. Laraia told the judge in court papers. “He betrayed his clients, he betrayed his friends, he betrayed even his family.”

Some of the stolen money came from friends and clients who were suffering from physical and mental health issues. Often Murtha submitted false or forged documents and even bounced checks to victims. He also incurred charges on credit cards in the names of others without their knowledge or permission.

The investigation revealed that Murtha used some of the stolen funds in connection with the purchase of a $725,000 house in Birmingham, Michigan. He spent $35,000 on a diamond engagement ring for his new wife and spent approximately $245,000 for the purchase of a show horse as well as horse for a teenage step-daughter, court documents claim.

Murtha practiced law in Connecticut for 35 years from 1981 to 2016. He is a graduate of Fairfield University and Quinnipiac University Law School.

Assistant U.S. Public Defender Moira Buckley urged Shea to sentence Murtha to just three years in prison. She pointed out that his mother died as a teenager and Murtha took on much of the responsiblity for raising his siblings.

Shea ordered Murtha to pay total restitution of $1,994,467.15, as well as forfeit his interest in the house in Michigan and a 2.11 carat diamond engagement ring that the government seized.

The FBI and the Greenwich Police Department, with the assistance of the Connecticut Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel handled the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney David T. Huang assisted Laraia in the prosecution.

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