Disbarred Jacksonville attorney faces felony fraud charge

Lawyer previously disciplined by Florida Bar after client's money went missing

By Tarik Minor - Anchor, I-TEAM reporter, Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects, Eric Wallace - Senior Producer, I-TEAM

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A Jacksonville attorney who is not allowed to practice law was arrested Wednesday on felony fraud and grand theft charges.

Christopher Michael Ochoa, 32, was booked into the Duval County jail, where he remains in custody in lieu of $5 million bail, jail records show.

While the specifics of those criminal charges are unclear, the News4Jax I-TEAM has learned that Ochoa was disbarred because he did not return $1.25 million to a client.

As it turns out, that client isn’t the only person who has accused Ochoa of improperly taking thousands of dollars.

In fact, a Maine man sued Ochoa over an “investment opportunity” that promised a return of $10 million for every $250,000 invested through him. According to a copy of the lawsuit filed in federal court, the investment didn’t come through and Ochoa refused to return the investor’s $500,000.

The Florida Bar disbarred Ochoa back in May because of a separate, similar arrangement where an asset management firm deposited $1.25 million into Ochoa’s trust account. A complaint was filed with the Bar when the attorney could not account for the firm’s funds.

Attorney Gene Nichols, who has no ties to the case, said, based on documents from the Florida Bar, it appears Ochoa moved the investor’s money around without permission and somehow made a substantial gain himself. 

“Nobody seems to know where the money is, other than the fact that it appeared to go to some individuals where no one knows where they are as well, so Mr. Ochoa has a lot of explaining to do,” he said.

The Florida Bar has ordered Ochoa to pay back the $1.25 million to his client, but according to legal experts, getting that restitution will be extremely difficult because Ochoa has yet to give anyone any information as to where that money is.

The I-TEAM has learned that Ochoa is not only in debt to clients, but also to his son’s private school. The school sued him in June, saying it was owed nearly $4,500 in tuition. A judge sided with the school last month, ordering Ochoa to pay the balance, plus fees and interest.‚Äč

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