Florida Jail Prison

Former Florida Attorney Pleads Guilty To Racketeering

A former attorney in Florida plead guilty Thursday to racketeering (RICO).  Jason R. Coody, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, announced the guilty plea.
TFP File Photo

A former attorney in Florida plead guilty Thursday to racketeering (RICO).  Jason R. Coody, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, announced the guilty plea.

Court documents show between in or about December 2015 and in or about January 2018, Phillip Timothy Howard, 62, of Tallahassee, Florida, a Florida attorney, along with others, was associated with and employed by an Enterprise, that is, his Tallahassee law firm (Howard & Associates, P.A.), and several Tallahassee investment companies.

During this time, Howard, along with others, knowingly, willfully, and unlawfully conducted and participated in the conduct of the affairs of the Enterprise, through a pattern of racketeering activity, namely, wire fraud and money laundering.

Howard engaged in such racketeering activity through multiple acts of wire fraud related to his representation of former NFL players in a class-action lawsuit.

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These clients were potentially eligible for settlement payouts from the NFL, and as part of his representation, Howard fraudulently enticed his clients to invest their retirement funds with his investment companies.

However, Howard failed to disclose and misrepresented to these former NFL player investors the structure of the Enterprise, and the conflicts of interest and the criminal background of persons associated with or employed by the Enterprise. 

Howard failed to disclose and misrepresented the true nature of investment companies’ funds and the actual investments made by the former NFL player investors. Despite reassuring investors that their money was secure, Howard never informed them that almost none of investment funds yielded a return and failed to disclose that the investment funds had been commingled with funds used to operate his law firm and to issue payroll for its staff, pay Howard’s personal mortgages, and otherwise personally enrich Howard.

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The former NFL player investors were provided quarterly and year-end investment statements which were inaccurate. These investment statements indicated that investor funds were allocated into two separate investment funds, including a fund designed specifically to invest in equities. In reality, there were no separated, dedicated investment funds, and the bank accounts for the Enterprise had little or no money. Howard and others fraudulently obtained over $4 million through such conduct.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for November 6, 2023, at 9:00 a.m., at the United States Courthouse in Tallahassee before the Honorable United States District Judge Allen Winsor. Howard faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for racketeering and a maximum term of 3 years of supervised release following any prison sentence that is imposed.

This case resulted from a joint investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service–Criminal Investigations, with assistance from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Justin M. Keen and David P. Byron.

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