Richard Brown, former Vero Beach attorney, sentenced to 15 years in prison

VERO BEACH — Disbarred attorney Richard Brown will be serving 15 years in state prison on criminal charges of misappropriating about $360,000 from his Treasure Coast clients since about 2009.

Indian River Circuit Judge Robert Pegg on Friday ordered the jail term, 10 years' probation and that Brown, 45, must pay back about $300,000in restitution.

The former private attorney, who had clients along the Treasure Coast, could have faced anywhere from eight to 130 years in state prison, according to prosecutors. The charges included grand theft, fraud, money laundering and illegal interception of communications.

Apart from the criminal charges, the Florida Supreme Court did its own investigation into Brown and on Feb. 20 disbarred him from practicing law in Florida.

Brown has been in Indian River County Jail since last year awaiting sentencing in the local criminal case in which he pleaded guilty on March 16. He was to be sentenced last year after entering a plea to theft and fraud charges in November, but shortly after the plea, his defense attorney John Unruh discovered a miscalculation in a score sheet the judge would have used to determine Brown's sentence. Because of the miscalculation, the plea was withdrawn, court officials said.

Then another victim came forward in early February. Additional charges of money laundering, insurance claim fraud and theft were filed over Brown's handling of a $100,000 insurance company settlement on behalf of highway accident victim Christopher Holland, 42, of Indian River County. Holland died in February 2009 after he was struck by a car while he was walking across 20th Avenue.

Family members said they only got $10,000 from Brown.

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