Former LeClair lawyer Ryan Matson immediately begins 44-month sentence

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Bruce Matson, as seen in a 2018 photo. (BizSense File)

Ending a two-year disgrace, veteran Richmond lawyer Bruce Matson was sentenced Monday to 44 months in federal prison for his theft of $ 4 million in bankruptcy trust funds.

The longtime bankruptcy trustee, who spent most of his nearly four-decade career at LeClairRyan, now devastated, was immediately taken into custody by the US Marshall Service.

Matson was found guilty and pleaded guilty to obstructing formal proceedings, over lies he told federal officials as they sought to determine how money went missing from the giant’s bankruptcy. LandAmerica title insurance based in Henrico during Matson’s tenure as director and ended. in his personal bank accounts.

The punishment was handed down by Judge John Gibney in front of dozens of onlookers, including Matson’s family, friends and other church worshipers.

The crowd of supporters who showed up for Matson was so large that the judge ordered the opening of several additional courtrooms to help space people out and maintain social distancing. They were able to watch the audience via a video stream.

Matson was sentenced to the Richmond Federal Courthouse.

Matson, who wore a black suit, black mask and pink tie, was surrounded by his defense attorneys Brandon Santos and Richard Cullen of McGuireWoods, as well as Danny Onorato of Schertler, Onorato, Mead & Sears in DC

The 64-year-old, who has already been struck off the bar, was at times in tears when the judge heard from Matson’s wife and daughter, as well as the prosecution and defense, as both sides made a final effort to sway Gibney one way or the other.

Gibney said he was moved by the dozens of letters sent to court by supporters of Matson before sentencing. They described an otherwise righteous man who, while being a devoted husband, father, mentor, and practitioner, went astray in inexplicable and unusual ways.

“I have read these letters, which reveal a different side to Mr. Matson,” Gibney said.

But, Gibney later added, “Here’s something I’ve learned in 11 years on the bench: Everyone has two sides. I am still amazed.

The judge spent a considerable amount of time questioning lawyers on both sides and wondering why Matson stole the money in the first place. Why, after apparently 40 years of a successful legal career, has he pocketed the money without spending it?

The money was fully accounted for when Matson’s robbery was revealed in 2019, and it apparently wasn’t used to fund an exorbitant lifestyle. He remained intact in his accounts.

“That’s what’s mind boggling to me,” Gibney said. “Sir. Matson has enough assets that he was able to quit practicing law five years ago. The amount he took is not enough to afford him an island in the Caribbean. .

“On top of all that, he was just a phenomenal bankruptcy lawyer. He could have found a job in any company in town. What he has done here is by no means rational. Why take the money to just sit there? “

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Garnett attempted to answer Gibney’s questions.

“It was fraud for fraud,” Garnett said, adding that Matson’s scheme took place over a period of 2015 to 2019 and involved calculated steps such as setting up fake bank accounts and manipulation of the LandAmerica Trust’s final budget to make it easier for it. manipulate funds.

Gibney, citing in part a psychological assessment of Matson that was completed before sentencing, described it as a kind of safety blanket in the face of professional and personal turmoil. This included family obligations and the prolonged disappearance of LeClairRyan, where Matson was General Counsel in his later years.

“He didn’t spend the money; he had it there, I guess, in case he needed it, ”Gibney said.

Matson then addressed the court, stressing his regrets and his desire to serve his sentence and return to society as a productive citizen.

“I cannot express how deeply sorry I am for the conduct that brings us here today,” Matson said. “I have disappointed so many people.

He apologized to the Virginia State Bar, bankruptcy court, and his family.

“I lost a lot because of these actions,” he said.

LeClairRyan’s office in Richmond was padlocked as it collapsed.

Matson’s legal troubles largely began in August 2019, when it came to the attention of the bankruptcy court that LandAmerica’s $ 2.8 million liquidation fund had been emptied. These funds were not to be disbursed until the end of the liquidation period in 2021.

Matson had overseen LandAmerica’s complex case from the company’s collapse in 2008 until its seemingly successful conclusion in 2015.

The missing money was discovered in large part due to LeClairRyan’s collapse. It was during the bankruptcy proceedings of the long-standing law firm, which is still ongoing, that the same financial firm that had worked on the LandAmerica case combed through LeClairRyan’s financial data and reported noticed a gap.

Matson, while offering several apologies in his first confrontation, eventually admitted that the funds had been transferred to his accounts and those of an associate, before returning them. Matson was then removed from his role as a director of LandAmerica, despite his objections, and then conceded his removal from the Virginia State Bar in November 2020.

He was indicted and pleaded guilty in July when it was revealed his fraud dated back further than expected and continued in another bankruptcy case in which he had been a trustee.

The US attorney’s office and Matson’s camp negotiated a plea deal in light of his cooperation with the investigation, return of all money, acceptance of responsibility, and lack of a track record judicial.

His one count of obstruction was punishable by a maximum penalty of five years. Prosecutors had asked for at least 47 months, while Matson and his lawyers had asked for no more than 37 months.

In addition to the 44-month sentence, Matson was ordered to pay a fine of $ 10,000 and three years on probation after his incarceration.

The judge said he would recommend Matson to serve his sentence at FCI Cumberland, a federal penitentiary with a lower-security camp in Allegany County, Md.

Matson is also prohibited from being employed as a trustee or managing the funds of others.

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