BRADENTON, Fla. (Tribune News Service) — A Bradenton lawyer has been disbarred and sentenced to five years in jail as one of 15 attorneys recently disciplined by the Florida Supreme Court.
Michael Benjamin Crowder, admitted to practice in August 2011, was disbarred following a Dec. 3 court order, according to a release issued Friday by The Florida Bar.
According to a 2013 indictment returned by a grand jury, Crowder owned and operated M&H Coins and Precious Metals in Gainesville, through which he sold coins and precious metals to customers in the United States and abroad.
At the time, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported Crowder was serving as an U.S. Army captain judge advocate general stationed in Fort Sill, Okla. He owned and operated M&H from his Gainesville home while attending the University of Florida Levin College of Law under the Army's Funded Legal Education Program.
The business accepted orders by email and over the phone. According to court documents, M&H and Crowder required customers to pay for merchandise by check or wire transfer before it would be shipped. Payments were then deposited into a business account maintained by M&H at a Bank of America in Gainesville.
According to the Florida Bar, Crowder accepted advance payment from customers but failed to deliver merchandise, claiming it was lost in the mail. Crowder was charged with committing these crimes between August 2009 and November 2011.
Additional excuses for failing to provide customers with merchandise for which they had paid, included claiming he had been ill and unable to mail it, his inventory had been stolen and his suppliers did not have the merchandise, among other false assertions, the indictment states.
Court documents also state Crowder fraudulently obtained approximately $701,256 in monies, funds, and credits, which he then "converted to his own use and to the use of others who were not entitled to those monies, funds, and credits."
Crowder was convicted in federal court of three counts of wire and mail fraud. He was sentenced Feb. 17, 2015, by U.S. District Judge Mark E. Walker. His 60-month prison sentence will be followed by three years supervised release and restitution to victims of $1,214,282, according to court documents.
Crowder was also discharged as an Army judge advocate.
A message left Friday for Crowder's attorney, Tallahassee-based Steven R. Andrews, was not immediately returned.
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