Overwhelmed by guilt, then-Spector attorney tried to take own life

Posted: June 25, 2014

ON THE AFTERNOON of Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, Gomer Thomas Williams, then an attorney at the Center City law firm Spector Gadon & Rosen, sat in his car near his Philadelphia home, with a shotgun in hand, ready to take his own life.

"The guilt was simply too much for me," Williams told a federal judge yesterday.

"I couldn't function. I couldn't continue what I was doing."

Williams, 54, stood before U.S. District Judge Legrome Davis, apologizing for stealing $503,361 from four of his trust and estate clients between 2007 and 2012.

At the end of yesterday's candid hearing, Davis sentenced him to two years in federal prison.

Williams' attorney, William Winning, of the Cozen O'Connor firm, told the judge that Williams "came within minutes of ending his own life" that Sunday. Williams' wife, Coleen, stopped him.

Later that day, Winning said, he spoke with Williams, then met him the next day.

"It was clear he wanted to make a full, clear disclosure of his conduct," Winning said.

Winning said he met with Paul Rosen, chairman of Spector Gadon & Rosen, disclosing what Williams had done, and also contacted First Assistant U.S. Attorney Louis Lappen in the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Dressed in a dark suit and speaking softly, Williams explained to the judge that five to 10 years ago, he was "borrowing more and more" money to pay expenses. Then one day, he realized he had access to his clients' accounts. "I took a small amount," he said.

Over the next five years, he continued to take money to pay debts and expenses, including his mortgage, he said.

"Your Honor, I've done the worst thing an attorney can do," he said. "I stole a good deal of money."

Unlike other defendants who face prison, Williams didn't ask the judge for a break. He told the judge he deserved time behind bars as just punishment.

Lappen said Williams was fully cooperative with the government after disclosing his fraud. But he also noted Williams had agreed to uphold the law and ended up breaching people's trust.

Williams pleaded guilty in March to one count of wire fraud in connection with the scheme. Prosecutors said he defrauded his clients by diverting funds from their accounts to his personal accounts and by overbilling them for work that was not done.

Winning said the clients who were defrauded were fully reimbursed by the Spector firm.

Rosen, speaking after the hearing, said the moment he found out about Williams' theft, he fired Williams. The clients Williams stole from were clients he had brought with him to Spector when he joined the firm, Rosen said.

"Our clients and our firm were victims of this criminal conduct and we took immediate steps to make sure our clients were fully compensated for all losses," Rosen said.

Williams, who has been disbarred, was ordered to begin serving his sentence Aug. 11, followed by three years' supervised release. He was also ordered to pay restitution of $503,361.

On Twitter: @julieshawphilly

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