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Attorney Sentenced To 180 Days In Workhouse, Must Pay $15K Restitution For Swindling Drug Case Client

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A criminal defense attorney in Minnesota has been sentenced to 180 days in the workhouse for swindling thousands from a drug case client.

On Tuesday, the Hennepin County Attorney's Office said Kristi McNeilly, 46 of Woodbury, will also pay $15,000 in restitution.

After a weeklong trial last October, a Hennepin County jury found McNeilly guilty after deliberating for less than an hour.

According to the criminal complaint, in May 2018, McNeilly was asked to represent a 53-year-old victim and his 39-year-old roommate for $22,500 after the Southwest Hennepin Drug Taskforce found a small amount of drugs in the victim's home.

A few weeks later, the victim made deposits to McNeilly's checking account totaling $22,500—costs needed to retain McNeilly for both himself and his roommate, the complaint states.

The release states, on Nov. 5, 2018, "McNeilly contacted the victim and told him she was asked to meet with the lead investigator and the prosecuting attorney on his drug case." McNeilly then "told the victim that the authorities were building a large case against him and that he could face 15 to 20 years in federal prison for his drug case," the complaint continues.

McNeilly told the victim if he paid $35,000 to a police union and worked as an informant, he could avoid the charges. The victim was also told that if he did not want to work as informant, he could pay $50,000 to the police union to make his charges disappear.

McNeilly drove the victim to the bank where he paid a $15,000 cashier's check to McNeilly as a partial payment on the $50,000, the complaint continues.

"The victim later contacted another criminal defense attorney who told him that he had likely been swindled and that he should report the matter to authorities," the complaint states.

The issue was reported to the Minnetonka Police Department and sent to the Burnsville Police Department for further investigation due to a potential conflict of interest, the release said.

"A search of McNeilly's bank records show no money was paid to the union. The $15,000 was spent on her mortgage payment, payments to credit cards and other personal spending", the complaint states.

The investigation also revealed that McNeilly lied to her client to extort $15,000 from him. She never spoke with a lead investigator, nor with the prosecuting attorney on Nov. 5, 2018, the complaint says. There also was no proposal to pay money to the police union.

In addition to the workhouse and restitution, McNeilly will be on probation for three years and "cannot have a fiduciary relationship with clients, nor handle their funds," the county attorney's office said.

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