In a brief hearing, William Orr Smith, 71, appeared in Henrico Circuit Court and pleaded guilty; Smith’s lawyer has said for months that Smith would not contest the charges and that he has cooperated with authorities.
Smith also cooperated with State Bar investigators in a separate investigation and surrendered his law license in June.
Special Prosecutor Tracy Thorne-Begland said Wednesday that Smith’s law practice and his Montbrook Title LLC grew rapidly five years ago during the housing boom, at one point swelling to as many as a dozen employees.
That growth found Smith with shortages of cash as the business grew and Smith began using money from different accounts to make payments on immediate obligations. The scheme lasted about five years and began to collapse as the housing market collapsed.
Thorne-Begland said there is no evidence Smith plowed embezzled funds into his private holdings or to embellish his lifestyle, but he said he will ask for a sentence above sentencing guidelines which could come in under less than a year.
Smith, of the 11700 block of Triple Notch Terrace in western Henrico, had practiced law for 44 years.
Also charged in the case is Donna M. Allen, 37, of Dinwiddie, a secretary to Smith, who allegedly extorted about $20,000 from him by threatening to tell authorities about his scheme.