Suspended Joplin attorney Dan Whitworth appeared last week in court in anticipation of indictment by a federal grand jury and was appointed legal counsel.
Whitworth appeared Thursday in U.S. District Court in Springfield and requested appointment of a federal public defender to represent him in light of a financial inability to hire counsel. U.S. Magistrate Judge David Rush appointed John Appelquist to represent Whitworth, who a court document indicates is under investigation by the Internal Revenue Service as well as the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
A “target letter” sent by the U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of Missouri to Whitworth on Oct. 23 apprised him that he was being investigated by the IRS and the state patrol for potential prosecution in connection with mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, tax fraud, money laundering, aggravated identity theft and other related offenses.
The letter reads: “Specifically, the Grand Jury is examining allegations that you have stolen client funds, forged the names of others on checks or financial documents in order to obtain these monies, and ultimately used those monies to pay for personal expenses, including but not limited to paying for family vacations and trips.”
The letter stated that the U.S. attorney’s office considers Whitworth a “target” of that investigation and “a putative defendant.”
Whitworth, who has yet to be indicted or charged with any offense, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The Missouri Supreme Court suspended Whitworth’s license Oct. 18 after an investigation by the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel. The office said it discovered several instances of “serious professional misconduct,” and evidence of forged endorsements on checks and stolen client funds.
The state patrol subsequently seized his case files and business records, and Joplin attorney Ed Hershewe was appointed to protect the interests of Whitworth’s clients.
A LETTER SENT IN OCTOBER to Dan Whitworth from the office of U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson offered the Joplin lawyer a chance to resolve his case quickly through a pre-indictment plea before Nov. 5. It was unclear Monday if that offer remains on the table.