Saturday, November 21, 2015

Suspension Was No Impediment For Now-Disbarred NJ Attorney Desiring To Continue Practicing Law - He Simply Allegedly Misappropriated Use Of Another Attorney's Name To Go On To Pilfer $75K In Real Estate Closing Funds Meant For Property Seller

In Morris County, New Jersey, the Daily Record reports:
  • A now-disbarred lawyer who used to practice in Flanders was charged [] with using the name of a legitimate attorney in a real estate closing and stealing more than $75,000 in funds meant for the seller of the property.

    Morris County Prosecutor Fredric M. Knapp [] announced that Neil Lawrence Gross, 47, of Livingston, was charged by office Detective Joseph Soulias with theft, identity theft and forgery. He was released into his own custody, and his initial state Superior Court appearance will be scheduled for a future date.

    Gross, a former partner in the Flanders-based firm Ward & Gross, was suspended from practicing law in October of 2012 and ultimately was disbarred on Oct. 21, 2014. According to state Office of Attorney Ethics records, Gross first was suspended for failing to promptly turn over funds to a client. His disbarment that followed was related to violations of attorney ethics that included lack of diligence, failure to communicate, practicing law while suspended and failure to cooperate with ethics investigations.

    In the current case, the Prosecutor's Office received a referral of an alleged theft from the New Jersey Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection(1) in July. Through an investigation by the Prosecutor's Office's Financial Crimes Unit, Gross allegedly was found to have used the name of another attorney in a real estate closing that occurred in 2013, while he was suspended.

    As part of the closing, Gross allegedly held more than $75,000 in a trust account but failed to disburse the funds to the seller of the property. He instead diverted the funds to a personal account and in doing so, forged the name of the other attorney, according to the charges and the Prosecutor's Office release.

    Gross also has a charge pending in Morris County of passing bad checks in Florham Park in 2014, according to court records. His attorney, Michael Fletcher, was not available Friday for comment.
Source: Ex-Flanders lawyer charged in theft of $75,000.
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(1) The New Jersey Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection was established to reimburse clients who have suffered a loss due to dishonest conduct of a member of the New Jersey Bar.

See generally:
  • N.Y. fund for cheated clients wants thieving lawyers disbarred, a July, 2015 Associated Press story on this Fund reporting that the Fund's executive director, among other things, is calling for prompt referral to the local district attorney when the disciplinary committee has uncontested evidence of theft by a lawyer injuring a client or an admission of culpability;

    When Lawyers Steal the Escrow, a June, 2005 New York Times story describing some cases of client reimbursements ("With real estate business surging and down-payment amounts rising with home prices, the temptation for a lawyer to filch money from a bulging escrow account and later repay it with other clients' money has never been greater, said lawyers who monitor the thefts."),

    Thieving Lawyers Draining Client Security Funds, a December, 1991 New York Times story that gives some-real life examples of how client security funds deal with claims and the pressures the administrators of those funds may feel when left insufficiently financed as a result of the misconduct of a handful of lawyer/scoundrels.
For similar "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that attempt to clean up the financial mess created by the dishonest conduct of lawyers licensed in other states and Canada, see:
Maps available courtesy of The National Client Protection Organization, Inc.

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