Disgraced former attorney sentenced to nearly six years in prison for litigation advance fraud scheme

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ATLANTA – Chalmer “Chuck” Detling, II, a disbarred attorney, has been sentenced to prison after being convicted by a jury of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. Without their knowledge or authorization, Detling used his clients’ identities—sometimes repeatedly—to obtain dozens of fraudulent litigation advances, totaling over $400,000.

“Detling betrayed the trust of his clients, business associates, friends, and family, all to steal money,” said U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine. “This tough but fair sentence should remind those considering similar behavior about the consequences of those decisions, especially licensed professionals who are considering exploiting their clients in a time of need.”

“Detling violated the trust of the clients that hired him and used his position as an attorney not to pursue justice, but to pursue a fraud scheme for personal gain,” said Philip Wislar, Acting Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “Because of his self-interest and greed he has not only thrown away his career, but will spend time in prison for his crimes.”  

According to U.S. Attorney Erskine, the charges and other information presented in court: Detling was the owner and operator of the Detling Law Group (which later changed its name to Detling Cole LLC), a personal injury law firm based in Marietta, Georgia. While running his law firm, Detling obtained fraudulent “litigation advances” in the names of his clients, without their knowledge or consent, from financing companies. These litigation advances—essentially high interest non-recourse loans—are intended for personal injury plaintiffs to cover non-litigation related expenses (e.g., living and medical expenses) while their cases are pending. In exchange for a litigation advance, the plaintiff agrees to repay the money received plus interest when his or her case settles or ends favorably at a trial. Because these are high interest advances, plaintiffs typically seek them out only as a matter of last resort.

From October 2014 to April 2016, Detling applied for and received dozens of fraudulent litigation advances, stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Detling submitted applications that were purportedly signed and executed by his respective clients, but Detling knew when he submitted the agreement paperwork that the clients had not actually executed the agreements.  He did so even after several clients expressly told him they did not need or want such financing. Detling was able to conceal from his clients that he had obtained the fraudulent advances by having the funds wired or deposited into his law firm’s Interest on Lawyer Trust Account (“IOLTA”) accounts.

Detling was able to secure these fraudulent litigation advances without his clients’ knowledge in part because the financing companies did not require the clients to be present when applying for the litigation advances or receiving the disbursements. He further concealed the fraud from the financing companies by exploiting the trust they placed in him as an attorney, by stringing them along with lies about the status of his clients’ cases and the possibility of future repayment. Detling also executed the scheme in part by submitting forged documents to the financing companies, including a doctored offer letter from an insurance company in which he claimed they offered $250,000 when in fact they offered $2,000 to settle a case.

While Detling was defrauding the financing entities, he was already subject of multiple investigations by the State Bar of Georgia (“Georgia Bar”) involving professional misconduct, including into his alleged mismanagement of client funds and settling of cases without client authority. Detling’s scheme ultimately unraveled when the Georgia Bar received an anonymous note in early May 2016 notifying it about a subset of the fraudulent litigation advances. Shortly after receiving this information, the Georgia Bar alerted the financing companies, Detling’s clients, and the FBI of the apparent fraud. Nonetheless, when subsequently deposed by the Georgia Bar, Detling repeatedly lied under oath about his knowledge and involvement with the fraudulently obtained litigation advances.

As a result of the Georgia Bar’s investigations, on September 1, 2016, the Georgia Supreme Court issued an emergency suspension of Detling’s law license. On October 30, 2016, the Court accepted Detling’s petition to voluntarily surrender his law license, characterizing it as “tantamount to disbarment.” Detling is no longer licensed to practice law in Georgia or elsewhere.

Chalmer “Chuck” Detling, II, 45, of Marietta, Georgia, was sentenced on February 10, 2022, by U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May to five years and ten months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $254,837.89. He was originally charged by a federal grand jury in August 2018 with multiple counts of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. Following an eight-day trial, a jury convicted Detling of four counts of wire fraud and five counts of aggravated identity theft on November 1, 2021.


This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with assistance from the State Bar of Georgia.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alex R. Sistla and Samir Kaushal prosecuted the case.

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.