Megan Moeller Sentenced
Disgraced Oregon attorney to spend 70 days in prison
She asked for probation with home confinement and community service, but this afternoon, former Albany attorney Megan Moeller was instead sentenced to 70 days in federal prison, 3 years supervised release, and to pay restitution and fines/fees to be determined in September. The criminal charges for which Moeller was sentenced included one count each of wire fraud and identity theft.
Moeller, formerly known as Megan Perry, had amassed 23 “bar complaints” during her four-year legal career, and requested “five years’ probation with 500 or more hours of community service” in her sentencing memorandum that was filed last week.
Throughout her appearance in the United States District courthouse in Portland, Moeller wept as she allowed her federal public defender Ryan Costello to explain away her conduct as fallout from an “abusive relationship.”
In her defense, Costello even portrayed Moeller as a victim of “stalking” by me, and stated that Moeller’s child had been exposed to negative tweets made by me — i.e. reporting on her case. Those claims did not appear to have made impact on her sentence.
Ironically, while asking the court for pity for her own mental health issues, Costello blamed Moeller’s problems on a former law partner who “had a mental breakdown,” causing Moeller to have “to take all his cases.” Moeller is currently taking anti-depressants and seeking treatment.
Moeller reiterated that she had no criminal history,¹ and said that she was “incredibly sorry,” and “did a really bad job.”
After her testimony, Chief Judge Marco A. Hernández corrected Moeller, stating “The behavior that’s before this court goes beyond a ‘bad job.’ This goes to the intent to forge documents, that led people to believe that things were as they weren’t.”
He continued, “That’s beyond simply being neglectful, and getting into an area of simply misleading people that, with an awareness that that’s going to cause some harm. And this is much worse than simply a ‘bad job’ for your client.”
Judge Hernández also considered the extensive misconduct that was abundantly described in the government’s sentencing memorandum, which sought a term of 14 months in prison. That document included reference to an additional nine victims who Moeller “defrauded” as part of her “pattern of deceit” to which she pleaded guilty in May.
Perhaps most interestingly, the identities of three of those victims, “AV9,” “AV10,” and “AV11,” were omitted from the sentencing memorandum. They are believed to be related to an as-yet-unfiled criminal prosecution based on information provided by Moeller, in exchange for her generous plea deal. Documents were filed under seal and will presumably not become public until those charges are filed.
A strong showing was made today by many of Moeller’s victims, some of whom turned out in person in order to read their impact statements, and many others who were unable to attend the sentencing in person, but who were permitted to provide their statements in writing to the judge.
In imposing his sentence, Judge Hernández stated that he didn’t usually see cases where “personal harm is as grave or deep as in this case,” even though the financial losses were not as large as in “similar cases.” Ultimately, Judge Hernández did not believe that Moeller was at risk to reoffend, and chalked up the high victim count to her inexperience, and getting in “over her head.”
Importantly, it was not just former clients that Moeller defrauded — it was also opponents, families, courts, and even total strangers: Two of the victims of the charged offenses were just people in Florida minding their own business when Moeller swiped their identities off the internet; and a third was not Moeller’s client, but an opponent. None could be reached for comment.
Retired Clatsop County District Attorney Joshua Marquis, who attended the hearing, told me, “Judge Hernández refused to grant her lawyer’s request for ‘home detention,’ as Costello argued that Moeller had already suffered sufficient public humiliation through her suspension by the State Bar. The judge relied heavily on the federal sentencing guidelines, which place great emphasis on the amount stolen, not the trust violated.”
Cary Bingham, another of Moeller’s victims who provided a written statement to the court, told me, “Nothing about her going to jail changes the past. Hopefully, this stain on the Oregon legal system and the Oregon State Bar will be a deterrent to other bad-actor lawyers.”
Lacy Hart, whose statement was read aloud in court, tole me, “I am definitely disappointed. I was hoping for more like ten months in jail and supervised probation. I feel like she got off very easy.”
According to several attendees who are familiar with case, her husband and former law partner, Linn County public defender, Erik Moeller, who was mentioned repeatedly in the government’s sentencing documents, was not seen at the hearing.
¹ Megan Moeller’s brief but disastrous legal career consisted of a rapid-fire series of misconduct and criminal conduct that went unprosecuted due to her ability to deflect away all investigation into her acts. Moeller evidently had help from her licensor, the Oregon State Bar, in avoiding attention from law enforcement — even after she resigned her law license in April 2018.
Megan’s request for leniency was oddly reminiscent of her bewildering belief that she should receive only a suspension from the Bar, after amassing 23 complaints there, in only three years.