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Attorney sentenced to 6 months in federal prison for embezzlement

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A 38-year-old Ponte Vedra Beach man has been sentenced to six months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for embezzlement from a bankruptcy estate, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday. 

In March, William Reid Penuel pleaded guilty to embezzlement. He was disbarred from practicing law in April, according to the Florida Bar. 

According to court records, between March 2015 and July 2015, Penuel, while serving as the Chapter 7 Trustee in a business bankruptcy case, embezzled estate funds held in a bank account in Duval County. At the time, he was a licensed attorney whose office was located in Atlantic Beach. After becoming the Chapter 7 Trustee for the debtor, Penuel assumed responsibility for about $909,000 in estate funds, which he deposited into his bank account and began diverting estate funds, which had been authorized by the bankruptcy court to pay certain expenses, to his own use, court records show.

As the authorized signor on the estate bank account, the DOJ said, Penuel made withdrawals and then re-deposited the monies into other accounts that he controlled. Once the funds were placed into his operating account, Penuel withdrew the funds, the DOJ said.

The scheme involved approximately 20 withdrawals from the estate bank account, totaling approximately $151,239, the DOJ said.

While on supervised release, Penuel must serve six months of home detention and undergo drug testing and treatment, the DOJ said. 

He was also ordered to pay $151,239 in restitution. 

The case was investigated by the FBI.