FREEHOLD A former attorney has been criminally charged with stealing tens of thousands of dollars from a deceased client’s estate and spending the funds on himself, rather than using them for their designated purpose, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey announced Tuesday.

Michael Botton, 52, of West Long Branch is charged with second-degree Theft by Unlawful Taking or Disposition and third-degree Failure to Make Required Disposition of Property Received.

The charges are the result of an investigation by the MCPO Financial Crimes and Public Corruption Bureau, initiated as the result of a referral from the Office of Attorney Ethics of the New Jersey Supreme Court. The investigation determined that Botton, whose law office was formerly located in West Long Branch, made a series of unauthorized withdrawals from his deceased client’s estate at various times from June 2014 through October 2020, using nearly $58,000 in stolen funds on personal expenses.

The investigation further determined that Botton also allegedly failed to fulfill his responsibilities as executor of the estate, specifically by cutting off contact with and failing to make required payments to the client’s goddaughter, whose share of the estate was intended to cover expenses for her to advance her education overseas.

Botton surrendered himself to authorities without incident on Friday and was released pending a first appearance in Monmouth County Superior Court.

The case has been assigned to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Kristen Anastos of the Office’s Financial Crimes and Public Corruption Bureau. Botton is being represented by Steven E. Nelson, Esq., with an office in Neptune Township.

Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendants have all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and State law.