- Associated Press - Friday, May 15, 2015

ATLANTA (AP) - A lawyer who once served as Georgia Democratic Party chairman was sentenced to prison for to stealing money from clients, federal prosecutors said Friday.

Michael Rene Berlon of Loganville was sentenced to five years and three months in prison for stealing more than $2 million from former clients, officials said in a release.

Berlon stole money from clients between 2008 and 2014 and typically told clients he would hold the money in a trust or that he was going to use the money to take care of clients’ legal issues, investigators have said. Berlon instead used his clients’ money to make personal purchases, pay travel expenses, and repay other clients.

In one case, prosecutors said Berlon got money from two people who came to him for help starting a new business. He told them he would help them get a loan but that it required a down payment. Instead of helping them get the loan, Berlon used the money for his personal expenses and debts, prosecutors said.

Berlon was convicted of wire fraud and is ordered to pay restitution to 15 victims. Berlon stepped down as head of the state Democratic Party in 2013 and surrendered his law license.

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