Woodbury attorney convicted of swindling client out of $15K

A criminal defense attorney from Woodbury has been convicted by a jury of swindling a client out of $15,000.

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office says 46-year-old Kristi McNeilly was convicted Monday after a week-long trial.

A criminal complaint states McNeilly was asked to represent a 53-year-old and his 39-year-old roommate in May 2018 after the Southwest Hennepin Drug Taskforce executed a search warrant of the victim’s residence and found a small amount of drugs in a safe. Over the next weeks, the victim sent McNeilly checks and direct deposits totaling $22,500 to retain her.

McNeilly represented the victim’s roommate at one court appearance in October 2018 but the victim still hadn’t been charged after several months. In November 2018, prosecutors say McNeilly told the victim she was asked to meet with the lead investigator and prosecuting attorney, and they were building a large case against him that could put him in federal prison for 15 to 20 years.

However, McNeilly told the victim he could avoid charges by paying $35,000 to a police union fund and working as a confidential informant, or by paying $50,000 to the fund and not working as an informant. She then took the victim to a bank where he paid her $15,000 as a partial payment, the attorney’s office said.

When the victim later talked to another attorney and learned he’d likely been swindled, he called Minnetonka Police who sent the case to Burnsville Police. He also asked McNeilly for the money back but she refused, saying she’d already paid the money, a complaint states. However, bank records showed she never paid any money to the union and had spent the $15,000 on her mortgage, credit card payments and other spending. An investigation also showed she had never met with a lead investigator or prosecuting attorney.

Her sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 27.