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Indicted former attorney found dead before trial

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A former attorney set to go on trial yesterday was found dead in his home. The jury trial for William Crabtree II, who was indicted on two counts of wire fraud and one count of mail fraud, was scheduled to begin Monday morning before Judge Rudy Lozano in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division.

Dyer police were called to Crabtree's home around 4 a.m. Monday and contacted the Lake County Coroner's office to determine the cause of death. Chief Deputy Coroner Jeff Wells said there were no signs of foul play and the cause of death is pending toxicology tests.

Crabtree was indicted in October 2008 after being accused of stealing money from two clients. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment.

The charges stem from an estate he represented in 2005, from which he was accused of embezzling at least $300,000; he also allegedly failed to pay its state and federal taxes. After the theft was discovered, he agreed to pay restitution to the estate, including interest and penalties for taxes.

The indictment also alleged Crabtree devised a scheme last year to defraud and obtain money and property from another client in order to pay the restitution from the 2005 incident.

Crabtree's law firm trust account held $1.8 million from a client he represented in the sale of a restaurant, and Crabtree was instructed to hold the money until the client could purchase another restaurant. In July 2008, Crabtree was to wire $1.7 million for the purchase of another restaurant; instead, Crabtree only wired $168,721. He wired $746,300 from the firm's trust account to another lawyer's trust account to make restitution. Crabtree also allegedly wrote himself a check from the restaurant client's funds for $135,000. In August 2008, Crabtree admitted to the client he didn't have the money in the fund but would obtain a loan to repay the client.

Then, Crabtree allegedly faxed a copy of a check for $1.2 million to the client's attorney claiming he obtained a loan; the check was a fake.

The Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission filed a petition for emergency interim suspension the day he was indicted; Crabtree resigned from the Indiana bar in December 2008.

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