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Suspended lawyer appears in court over embezzlement, forgery charges

A suspended Waukesha County lawyer appeared in court Friday, facing felony charges for misappropriating money from his former employer.

The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office charged Matthew MacLean, of Hartland, on Oct. 10 with one count of embezzlement of more than $10,000 and one count of forgery. Both are felonies.

MacLean could face a maximum fine of $25,000 and up to 10 years in prison for the embezzlement charge. The forgery count could net him a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 6 years in prison.

Milwaukee County Court Commissioner Barry Phillips on Friday set a signature bond of $10,000, meaning MacLean would have to pay that amount should he fail to appear in court.

The state was represented on Friday by Assistant District Attorney John Flynn; MacLean was represented by the attorney Michael Hart of Kohler Hart Powell, Milwaukee.

The charges arise from the years MacLean was general counsel and chief compliance officer for Red Granite Advisors and Ziegler Lotsoff Capital Management, which rented space from MacLean’s former employer, Michael Best & Friedrich.

MacLean was found to have diverted more than $450,000 belonging to the firm, some of it meant to pay Michael Best & Friedrich. The money went to a limited liability company he had opened for his son, BrickStix.

The law firm later, in May 2014, reported him to the Office of Lawyer Regulation. Red Granite filed a complaint in June 2014 with the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office alleging that MacLean had stolen more than $700,000 from the firm over several years.

The OLR pursued the matter, eventually filing charges in July 2015 and asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to revoke MacLean’s license.

According to the disciplinary proceedings, MacLean reported his conduct to the OLR, stopped practicing law in May 2014, declined an employment offer from a law firm and sought assistance from Wisconsin Lawyers Assistance Program, which led to his being diagnosed with bi-polar disorder.

Under a restitution settlement reached in 2015 with Red Granite, MacLean, with the help of his family, paid back $404,750.04, using an offset McLean had claimed as a settlement agreement.

Ultimately, the justices suspended MacLean’s license for two years.

However, according to the criminal complaint, an investigation by the Milwaukee DA’s office uncovered that he had embezzled an additional $161,132.42 from the company.

The DA’s office alleges that MacLean diverted Red Granite’s rent and common-area maintenance and parking fees that owed to Michael Best, wrote unauthorized checks, falsified Red Granite’s bookkeeping records to hide his misdeeds, paid personal expenses such as credit-card payments using Red Granite’s money and deposited into his own bank account checks that had been written out to Red Granite.

The forgery count, according to the complaint, stems from a letter and invoice MacLean had delivered in person to Red Granite’s controller. The letter, dated February 18, 2013, had Michael Best Chief Operating Officer David Lentz’s signature. It forwarded an invoice that billed Red Granite for $58,091.13 in common-area maintenance charges from 2012.

Lentz, though, had never drafted or signed the letter, which directed Red Granite to mail the payment to a post-office box that MacLean had set up in Milwaukee, according to the complaint.

The preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for Nov. 20 at 8:30 a.m. MacLean’s case has been assigned to Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Wall.

About Erika Strebel, erika.strebel@wislawjournal.com

Erika Strebel is the law beat reporter for the Wisconsin Law Journal and a law school student at UW-Madison. She can be reached at 414-225-1825.

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