Midlothian-based attorney Todd Rowland Phillippi, 50, and his wife, Melissa, 40, pleaded guilty Monday in 40th District Court to felony charges of welfare fraud.
Phillippi, whose law license was suspended April 11 under an interlocutory order of suspension issued by the Board of Disciplinary Appeals, pleaded guilty to two counts of tampering with a governmental record.
With the guilty plea, Phillippi judicially confessed to defrauding the state of Texas by falsifying documents submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services, prosecutors said.
As part of the plea agreement, Phillippi was sentenced by visiting Judge Joe Clayton to 180 days in a state jail facility. He is credited with 14 days served.
Phillippi’s wife, Melissa Rios, who also is known as Melissa Phillippi, pleaded guilty to eight counts of tampering with a governmental record.
Four counts stem from her fraudulent welfare applications with the state of Texas and four counts stem from fraudulent student loan applications submitted to the U.S. Department of Education, prosecutors said.
In pleading guilty, she judicially confessed to committing all charged offenses; adjudication of guilt was deferred and she was placed on community supervision for five years.
“There was overwhelming evidence of an elaborate scheme by Todd and Melissa Phillippi to defraud governmental entities,” Ellis County and District Attorney Patrick Wilson said. “The agreement reached allows the state to return stolen money where it belongs – to the taxpayers. Justice has been served.”
In preparation for the cases if they had gone to trial, prosecutors had filed volumes of documents with the court’s file, including paperwork and investigative evidence received from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, the Texas Department of State Health Services Vital Statistics, the state of Nevada, the Ellis County District Clerk’s Office, Ellis Appraisal District, Facebook, Navarro College, U.S. Department of Education, Texas Department of Public Safety, Ellis County Tax Assessor, U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Northern District, Rusk County District Clerk’s Office, Methodist Mansfield Medical Center, Texas Workforce Commission, Citi Mortgage Inc., Mansfield Cosmetic Surgery Center, the Office of the Secretary of State of Texas, various bank records and utility service records.
The documents indicate the Phillippis married June 26, 2008, in Las Vegas, Nev., marrying a second time in Waxahachie two years later. The documents also indicate Melissa Rios was on food stamps when she married Todd Phillippi, receiving $643 in benefits in June 2008 alone. The monthly food stamp payments continued through September 2010, when $761 was paid out, according to the documents.
During the time frame the food stamp payments were being received, the records also indicate income for both Todd Phillippi and Rios.
During the time frame of October 2007-July 2010, Todd Phillippi wrote Rios checks totaling about $38,000, according to the records, which indicate some of the remittances were paid out of his Interest on Lawyer’s Trust Accounts. In June 2010, from one bank account alone, checks were written to Melissa Rios totaling more than $5,500, according to the bank statements, which also indicate checks written for expenses.
During the time frame of September 2007 through May 2010, the records also indicate Phillippi had income of more than $96,000 through his court-appointed attorney work in Ellis County, with the documents and bank statements indicating receipt of additional income into his law practice as well.
This is the second felony conviction for Todd Phillippi, who was previously found guilty in January by an Ellis County jury on a charge of fraudulent use of identifying information.
As part of the plea agreement on the tampering charge addressed Monday, Phillippi withdrew his pending appeal of the January conviction and accepted a sentence of 180 days in a state jail facility on the fraudulent use charge. The two sentences will run concurrently, with Phillippi waiving his right to all appeals in both cases.
The couple must pay restitution, with prosecutors saying the cases totaled about $40,000 in fraud.
As part of their plea agreements, the couple has already paid one-half of the amount, with Melissa Phillippi to pay the remainder as a condition of her community supervision.
The monies will be forwarded to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, the Texas Workforce Commission and the U.S. Department of Education.
Phillippi has been in custody since March 16 at Wayne McCollum Detention Center for a revocation of his probation on a non-related misdemeanor conviction for driving while intoxicated. That matter saw him sentenced to 180 days in the county jail for violating the terms of his community supervision.
It was unclear as of press time when he might be transferred to a state jail facility to serve the sentences assessed during Monday’s hearing.
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