Golf

The sentence Dustin Johnson’s former attorney received for embezzling $26 million

Coastal Carolina alumnus Dustin Johnson is the No. 3 golfer in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Coastal Carolina alumnus Dustin Johnson is the No. 3 golfer in the Official World Golf Ranking. AP

Dustin Johnson’s former attorney Nathan ‘Nat’ Hardwick of Atlanta was sentenced to 15 years in prison, with an additional six years of supervised release, for his conviction on embezzlement charges.

A federal jury convicted Hardwick in October of embezzling an estimated $26 million from his now-bankrupt residential real estate closing firm Morris Hardwick Schneider, of which he was a 55-percent partner, and the affiliated LandCastle Title company.

About $19.5 million was taken from client escrow accounts, court records show, which were reimbursed through insurance.

Judge Eleanor Ross of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia admonished Hardwick, 53, during Monday’s sentencing hearing for his “egregious behavior and lack of remorse,” according to an article by Meredith Hobbs of Law.com.

“You are seriously a disappointment to our legal profession,” Ross said, according to Law.com. “I think your conduct in this case has been egregious—and not just as to your spending. It is indisputable that you were a greedy and deceitful person. . . . I’m not sure you’ve grasped how serious this is. I hope you do in custody.”

Ross’ sentence split the difference between the two recommendations submitted to the court by the prosecution and defense teams. The prosecution asked for 22 years and Hardwick’s attorneys suggested an eight-year sentence.

Johnson became involved in the case in 2014. He claimed in a lawsuit against Hardwick, his firm and his firm partners that he was bilked out of $3 million with a fabricated story about an investment opportunity, and that the money was actually used to cover shortages in the firm’s accounts.

The Coastal Carolina alumnus and Columbia native who is the third-ranked professional golfer in the world reached a $2 million settlement that had to be approved by a bankruptcy court in 2016.

Monday’s nearly eight-hour sentencing hearing featured testimony from numerous government and defense witnesses including Hardwick, who said he was learning about personal responsibility.

“I now see how my actions had the unintended consequence of hurting my clients and partners,” adding that his “personal spending was irresponsible and reckless,” according to Law.com.

A restitution hearing is scheduled for May 9 for both Hardwick and his confessed co-conspirator, Asha Maurya.

Earlier this month, the court issued a preliminary order of forfeiture that orders Hardwick to forfeit nearly $20 million to the court, and includes seizure of his property valued up to the forfeiture amount.

Maurya, the former controller for Morris Hardwick Schneider’s residential real estate closing side who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, was sentenced to seven years in prison Tuesday with an additional three years of supervised release.

She admittedly facilitated wire transfers to Hardwick from the firm’s operating and escrow accounts to pay his bills for casinos, private jets, women and other expenses, and cooperated with the prosecution in Hardwick’s case.

Maurya has agreed to forfeit $900,000 to the court.

Hardwick is facing disbarment by the Georgia Supreme Court after his guilty verdict, but he has appealed the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, so the Georgia Supreme Court will await the outcome of the appeal before deciding whether to disbar him.

Twelve jurors unanimously convicted Hardwick on Oct. 12 on 21 counts of wire fraud, plus separate counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and making false statements to federally insured banks.

Hardwick’s alleged expenditures described in testimony include nearly $4 million on three women, including at least one he met on SugarDaddy.com, more than $7 million at casinos, more than $3 million with a bookie, $680,000 for a luxury condo at The St. Regis Atlanta, $186,000 on a deposit for a party on a private island, and $635,000 on a trip to the 2014 British Open for golfing buddies that included a customized jet and round at St. Andrews.

Hardwick argued in court that he believed payments to him were rightfully due to him as the firm’s majority partner, and he placed the blame for depleting escrow accounts on Maurya.

But prosecutors noted that Hardwick took $20.6 million from 2011 to 2013 alone—when the firm’s net income was only $9.9 million, according to an audited financial statement, Law.com reported.

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Alan Blondin covers golf, Coastal Carolina athletics and numerous other sports-related topics that warrant coverage. Well-versed in all things Myrtle Beach, Horry County and the Grand Strand, the Northeastern University journalism school valedictorian has been a sports reporter at The Sun News since 1993, earning eight top-10 Associated Press Sports Editors national writing awards and 18 top-three S.C. Press Association writing awards since 2007.
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