A former attorney and candidate for DeKalb County District Judge has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for stealing $250,000 from clients.
Attorney General Steve Marshall announced Monday that Teresa Darwin Phillips, 43, of Sylvania, has used her office for personal gain by stealing and misusing funds from multiple clients, including several elderly individuals under her care as she served as their legal guardian or conservator.
Phillips pleaded guilty to nine felony offenses in November 2022 following an investigation led by the Dekalb County District Attorney's Office.
"Trust is fundamental to the attorney-client relationship. Once a lawyer has gained the trust of a client, particularly an elderly client, they owe that client the highest degree of honesty and loyalty," Marshall said in a statement. "To see that trust betrayed on such a wide scale warrants a severe reaction from the justice system. Our team saw to that. This case should serve as yet another warning to attorneys across our state seeking to take advantage of vulnerable clients — you will be found out and held accountable."
District Attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit Summer Summerford said she hopes this case will serve as a warning to others in the legal profession who may be tempted to break the law.
"Our community deserves to have attorneys who take their jobs seriously and work with integrity and honesty," said Summerford. "My office will not stand for the intentional, premeditated targeting of vulnerable people who rely on attorneys for help in times of need. Although this sentence will not replace what the victims lost, hopefully, it will provide the closure in this long case and deter other attorneys from making the same mistakes."
Marshall commended investigator Gary Williams and other local law enforcement for their work in investigating Phillips' case and Assistant District Attorney Stanna Guice and Deputy Attorney General John Kachelman for their work prosecuting the case.
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