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State bar panel says attorney admits to embezzling from Forest law firm, revokes license
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lynchburg area

State bar panel says attorney admits to embezzling from Forest law firm, revokes license

A Lynchburg-area attorney has had her law license revoked after state disciplinary officials said she embezzled at least $23,000 from accounts at the firm she worked at and lied about a real estate transaction.

Melissa Marie Ogden had been practicing law since 2011 and worked at the Forest-based law firm Fairchild & Yoder, as well as at Advanced Manufacturing Technology Inc. in Lynchburg as a corporate attorney, according to Virginia State Bar documents detailing her license revocation.

A VSB panel from its disciplinary board revoked her license May 21 after a hearing about her misconduct, which she attended with her own legal counsel. A memorandum order detailing that process was published online this week.

State and federal court records indicate Ogden hasn’t been criminally charged from the misconduct.

While handling a real estate closing for law firm clients in July 2019, Ogden lied to the sellers that a $205,173.06 payoff amount had been deposited in their bank account, the VSB memorandum states. The law firm was notified in October 2019 the bank hadn’t received the payoff, at which point Ogden wired the money over and created a false bank statement that she sent to those involved in late January 2020.

James Fairchild, a partner at the firm Ogden handled the transaction for, then said he’d contact the bank about the transaction, according to the memorandum. Ogden confessed to forging the bank statement and later admitted in an interview to stealing more than $20,000 out of two of the firm’s accounts.

Investigators from VSB found through an audit that Ogden had taken more than $23,000 from firm accounts on 16 separate occasions, including once in fall 2019, the memorandum states.

Ogden also used $15,000 in firm account money to shield herself from litigation involving a client who claimed Ogden failed to properly register a trademark for them, the memorandum states. Ogden signed Fairchild’s name on a settlement agreement without his consent — a settlement agreement that promised the client a total of $265,000 to release Ogden from any potential lawsuit claims.

Attorneys have contacted Fairchild about the remainder of the money promised in that agreement, according to the memorandum. He had to pay a $20,000 tax debt and has lost more than $50,000 of income as the result of Ogden’s actions, along with damage to the firm’s reputation.

When confronted about the transactions, Ogden said she was taking out a loan and paying personal expenses, the memorandum states. In testimony, she acknowledged “poor choices” and said she was going through personal issues and abuse “although she provided no details.”

Ogden’s mother paid $45,000 into the firm’s accounts as a form of restitution, along with $10,000 from Ogden herself, according to the memorandum. But the VSB panel found those payments weren’t made in good faith and were instead made “out of fear of punishment for engaging in potentially criminally culpable acts.”

“Finally, the Board found that Respondent did not display genuine remorse for engaging in misconduct so much as regret that her deceitful acts had been discovered and that she had damaged her relationship with Mr. Fairchild,” its statement reads. “Had Mr. Fairchild not confronted her, Respondent would not have confessed to her misconduct.”

A request for comment from the attorney representing her in the revocation was not returned as of press time.

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