Former San Antonio Lawyer Sentenced to 50 Years for Wire Fraud, Money Laundering

SAN ANTONIO – Former San Antonio Attorney Christopher John Pettit, 56, was sentenced in a federal court in San Antonio to 50 years in prison for fraud and money laundering.

For more than two decades, Pettit made numerous misrepresentations that persuaded his clients to deposit money with his firm, Chris Pettit and Associates, PC, which funds the clients believed would be used for services such as living trusts, irrevocable trusts, estate planning services, investments, and real-estate transactions, but which Pettit instead misused for his own enrichment and as part of a Ponzi-type scheme.

In one scheme, Pettit opened trustee accounts with client funds and simply moved the money to his own accounts, rather than using the funds for the benefit of the trust. Other fraudulent schemes included falsely promising to invest client money in high percentage bonds and instead wiring the funds to his personal account. He also falsely represented himself as a Qualified Intermediary for a 1031 real-estate exchange, which he used to convince clients to wire millions of dollars from asset sales into accounts he controlled and then misused for his own enrichment. Pettit would use his victimized clients’ funds to pay other client debts as well as to support an extravagant lifestyle. The schemes resulted in an estimated loss to the victims of between $20 million and $65 million. Pettit pleaded guilty Oct. 5, 2023, to three counts of wire fraud and three counts of money laundering.

“This case began with one victim filing a complaint before the investigation unraveled a massive and deceptive criminal scheme,” said U.S. Attorney Jaime Esparza for the Western District of Texas. “Thanks to the Fair Oaks Ranch Police Department for first recognizing the depth of the fraud in this case, and to the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office for referring the case to the FBI. The punishment handed down by Judge Garcia reflects the seriousness of the offense and is the product of steadfast collaboration by our partners at the local, state and federal levels.”

“Christopher Pettit used his position of trust as an attorney to defraud his clients of millions of dollars, in some cases their life savings, all for his own selfish benefit. Today’s sentence reflects the resolve of the FBI to bring to justice anyone who would take advantage of their position to line their own pockets,” said Special Agent in Charge Aaron G. Tapp for the FBI San Antonio Division. “We want to thank our partners at Fair Oaks Ranch Police Department, Texas Department of Public Safety, and Texas State Securities Board for their continued assistance in keeping our communities safe.”

The FBI investigated the case in conjunction with the Texas State Securities Board, Texas Department of Public Safety and Fair Oaks Ranch Police Department.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kelly Stephenson prosecuted the case.