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WEST CHESTER — Remorse, or the lack of it, was a central theme in the sentence handed down by a Common Pleas judge in the case of a disbarred attorney from Downingtown who stole thousands of dollars from a number of her clients, either by charging them for work she never did or by outright forgery.

“I do not believe that you are accepting responsibility,” Judge William P. Mahon told Kristi Ann Fredericks on Friday, during a 90-minute sentencing proceeding at which several of her victims spoke about the problems Fredericks’ thefts and deception in their cases had caused them. “You haven’t admitted that you stole anything.”

Mahon’s comments came as Fredericks tearfully asked forgiveness for the “pain” she had caused her former clients, hoping for leniency in the sentence that the judge would hand down. “I am truly sorry for everything that happened,” she said. “I truly mean that. I do.”

But Mahon told Fredericks and her attorney that he had heard nothing to convince him that Fredericks was showing the kind of remorse that could vouch for her future rehabilitation. During her trial in May, she had taken the stand to defend her conduct with her former clients, at times expressing disbelief that she could have ever been accused of wrongdoing.

“That’s like saying you are sorry the cat got run over by the neighbor,” he said of her apology for the hurt the former clients expressed. “She accepts responsibility for causing (the victims) pain, but not for her criminal  activities. There is a difference.”

Fredericks, trying to respond to Mahon’s concerns, said finally that, “I accept responsibility for anything criminal that I did. I know that in my heart. I guess I don’t know how to say it.”

Her words were not enough, however.

Fredericks was sentenced to 137 months to 420 months in a state correctional facility. Among the longest sentences imposed on a Chester County attorney found guilty of stealing from clients, the minimum prison term she will have to serve works out to be just short of 11½ years.

By comparison, Fredericks’ attorney Vincent DiFabio had asked Mahon to fashion a sentence that would keep her in Chester County Prison, where she could get medical treatment she needs for a variety of health issues, or at most a state prison term of about 40 months.

At trial, Fredericks, 43, was found guilty of nine counts of forgery, nine counts of theft by deception, seven counts of receiving stolen property, three counts of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds, two counts of theft by extortion, and two counts of tampering with records. She also was found guilty of attempted theft in two cases, as well as unauthorized practice of law, for continuing to represent a client in a Social Security matter after she had been disbarred.

The jury in the case acquitted her on several other counts of theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property, and forgery.

Mahon imposed a multitude of consecutive sentences on the various charges, explaining that he felt each of the victims in the case deserved their own separate punishment for what Fredericks did to them. If he had not, he said, “it would send a terrible message to the victims.”

The judge’s sentence, which Fredericks was ordered to begin serving immediately, went above what the prosecution had asked for– an aggregate prison term of 102 months to 288 months behind bars. The team of two prosecution attorneys, Deputy District Attorney Ronald Yen and Assistant District Attorney Tanner Jacobs, had specifically mentioned Fredericks’ apparent lack of remorse in requesting the prison sentence.

“Ms. Fredericks performance on the witness stand (during which she denied wrongdoing) suggests to the court that she demonstrated not only a complete and utter lack of remorse for what she had perpetrated upon her victims but also a repeated, conscious, calculated and planned effort on her part to actively attempt to avoid criminal responsibility for her conduct,” they wrote to Mahon in a memo.

Of the victims who spoke during the sentencing hearing Friday, some were blunt in their assessment of Fredericks, who in several instances took their money promising to help them with legal work, only to do nothing and try to hide from their questions. In one case, she also wrote herself a check for $28,000 from a deceased man’s estate for work she had not performed.

“What do you say to someone who has no conscience whatsoever?” asked Esther Meeks, who paid Fredericks $6,000 to handle a subdivision for land she owned in western Chester County. “You are a despicable person. You are a liar. You should be ashamed of yourself. I hope the judge throws the book at you.”  

Fredericks, also known by her married name of Kristi Ann McQuillan, had offices in Malvern, King of Prussia, Coatesville, and Downingtown. She was disbarred by consent by the state Supreme Court in December 2015 after an investigation of various complaints against her by the court’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

The investigation of Fredericks by Chester County Detective Kristin Lund, which spanned six months in 2017, came at the behest of attorney Norman J. Pine of West Chester, a former prosecutor in the DA’s Office. In January 2017, he brought two former clients of Fredericks’ to meet with members of the DA’s Office and Lund: Raymond K. Elmer, who was the executor of the estate of his father, G. Raymond Elmer of Honey Brook, who died in March 2014; and Michael Howe, the executor of the estate of his mother, Vera Ahern of Downingtown.

In both those cases, Fredericks allegedly took money from the estate that she was not authorized to take, $28,972 in the case of the Elmer estate and $57,000 from the Ahern estate.

Raymond Elmer died two days after testifying against Fredericks.

Fredericks was ordered to repay $54,752 to the state’s Lawyers Fund for Client Security, which had reimbursed some, but not all of her victims, and to have no contact with any of the victims or the attorneys who had worked with them after discovering her thefts.

To contact Staff Writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.

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