SAM NEILL STILL FREE ON BOND; SENTENCING ON LOCAL EMBEZZLEMENT CHARGES SET FOR FEBRUARY 25TH TERM OF LOCAL CRIMINAL SUPERIOR COURT
Even though he admitted stealing more than two and a half million dollars of his clients money, even though he has pleaded guilty to federal tax fraud charges, and even though he is facing about 84 years of hard jail time…disbarred Hendersonville attorney Sam Neill continues to be free on bond. And District Attorney Jeff Hunt this week told WHKP News that to the best of his knowledge, Neill has so far paid no restitution to his clients whose estates and trusts he ripped off.
The case of Sam Neill, a leader in local Democrat Party politics, a two time Democratic candidate for congress in the Eleventh Congressional District, and a former chairman of the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina first came to the public’s attention in early 2011 when Neill confessed to stealing clients trust and estate money. He was disbarred in May of 2011.
Now, almost two years later, the Neill has still not been sentenced. District Attorney Hunt tells WHKP News he expects actual sentencing on the federal tax fraud charges, which must come first, to happen early this year. Hunt said there had been some hold up in the federal pre-sentencing work in the Neill case and that’s been the reason for the delay in sentencing on those federal tax fraud guilty pleas. Once Neill is sentenced on the federal charges, he can then be sentenced on his five guilty pleas to the state embezzlement charges. Hunt told WHKP News that at this time, sentencing on the local embezzlement charges is set for the February 25th term of Criminal Superior Court in Henderson County. The District Attorney told WHKP News he expects Neill’S sentencing on all charges, state and federal, to be completed and finalized in the first quarter of this year.
Of that more than 2.5 million dollars Neill admitted to having stolen from his clients, about $850 thousand was from a trust account that had been set up to benefit Four Seasons, the local hospice and palliative care organization and the Community Foundation of Henderson County.
Due to a long standing association with Neill, District Attorney Hunt chose not to be involved in the investigation and prosecution of Neill and turned the matter over to the North Carolina’s Attorney General’s Office which has been handling it all since 2011.
Senior Deputy Attorney General James Coman told the judge in the case last September that he’s been working with Neill’s defense attorney, Joseph Cheshire, on behalf of Neill’s victims. Coman said last September, “Neill is exposed to a lot of jail time and he must follow though to pay the estates.” In fact, restitution to his victims is part of Neill’s plea agreement. And Defense Attorney Cheshire made the statement to the judge last September that “He (Neill) is working extraordinarily hard to ensure people who lost money that they will receive it all back”. But District Attorney Hunt told WHKP News this week that to be best of his knowledge, as of this week, little or no payment has actually been made.
A Hendersonville native, Neill was a successful local attorney for many years and an activist within the local, regional, and state Democrat Party. He served for 12 years as a member of the University of North Carolina System Board of Governors and as chairman of that Board for 2 years. He ran two unsuccessful campaigns for congress against former Republican Congressman Charles Taylor, raising unproven accusations of corruption against Taylor in both campaigns.
By WHKP News Director Larry Freeman
Wednesday January 9, 2013 6pm