DECATUR, Ga. (AP) -- The U.S. Marshals Service is now offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to the capture of a disbarred Georgia attorney believed to have killed his mother.

On Saturday the reward was announced and an updated gas station surveillance photo of 44-year-old Richard Merritt. The agency says Merritt could be anywhere in the country and should be considered armed and dangerous.

Police also believe someone must be helping Merritt, as it's been 10 days since he cut off his ankle bracelet and took off.

"He was on bond in Cobb County for various charges for ripping off his clients, he was a lawyer, and was stealing settlement money from clients, and instead of surrendering to serve his sentence, he cut his ankle monitor off and took off," said Supervisory Inspector Frank Lempka, with the U.S. Marshals Service.

Merritt admitted last month to settling some of his clients' lawsuits without telling them and then using the settlements on personal expenses including vacations.

He was sentenced to 15 years in prison but given until Feb. 1 to "get his affairs in order." Authorities say he didn't surrender that day and instead removed his ankle monitor. His mother was found dead the next day.

"We know someone is helping him, we don't know who it is, that's what we're trying to figure out, usually when you run you have help from someone, but on the other hand he had almost a year while he was on bond," added Lempka. "So he could have been planning this for that whole time, so he could have a whole plan in place already."

CBS46 reached out to Judge Flournoy to ask why Merritt was allowed a few days to get his affairs in order. We were told Flournoy is not allowed to comment.

Copyright 2019 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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