Published 8:16 am Wednesday, May 20, 2009
COURTLAND — Former Franklin attorney J. Edward Moyler Jr. was indicted Monday on nine counts of embezzlement.
News of the charges, which each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, seemed to stun the attorney Tuesday afternoon.
“I did not know I had been indicted until you called,” Moyler said during a phone interview with The Tidewater News. “I’m not in a position to comment further on that right now.”
The charges stem from Moyler’s admission in a civil proceeding that he took more than $4 million from the estate of Lucille K. Steinhardt, who died in October 2000.
Moyler, who had practiced law in Franklin for 54 years, disclosed in Southampton County Circuit Court that he took money from Steinhardt and three other clients while acting as executor of their wills.
Steinhardt, also known as “Tootie” to her friends, was from a widely known and wealthy Franklin family who ran a downtown hardware store. Since she didn’t have heirs, Steinhardt, who lived in a stately home on Second Avenue, left sums of money to friends and family members who looked after her. Moyler reportedly followed through on those payments.
Moyler filed for bankruptcy protection in October.
He said Tuesday that he took issue with categorizing his actions as “stealing.”
“I borrowed the money from the estates and invested it for them and for myself,” he said, adding that he had intended to pay the money back. “The investments went south.”
Moyler declined to list the investments, but did say that one was a hotel in Greensboro, N.C.
He said he thought borrowing the money was legal.
“I certainly thought I had every right to do what I did,” the well-known attorney said.
All three local judges — Westbrook Parker, Rodham Delk and Carl Eason — have recused themselves in this case.
Judge Designate William C. Andrews III entered judgments in Southampton County Circuit Court against Moyler last month, including one for $4,072,363.76 to the Steinhardt estate. Three other judgments were issued as well — one for the estate of Mallory Kenneth Brown for $103,000, another for Robert E. Pretlow Jr. for $55,559.87 and $17,347.33 for the estate of Issac Buster Rudolph Teachy.
The Steinhardt estate still has a little less than $194,000 left, according to court documents.
Moyler is due in Suffolk Circuit Court at 10 a.m. on May 26 to answer the civil judgments brought against him.
Moyler said later Tuesday afternoon that he made arrangements to turn himself today. It was not clear whether he would face charges for taking money from the other three estates.
“Our investigation is ongoing,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Cooke.