Monday, February 29, 2016

Long Time NY Lawyer Wraps Up Career w/ Felony Convictions For Pilfering Nearly $1.5 Million From Clients; Victims Include Homebuyer ($431K) & Homeowner Facing Foreclosure ($159K)

From the Office of the Westchester County, New York District Attorney:
  • Acting Westchester County District Attorney James A. McCarty announced [] that Michael Lippman (DOB 11/03/44) of 165 Falmouth Rd., Scarsdale, NY pled guilty to the following charges:

    - one count of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class "C" Felony,
    - one count of Criminal Tax Fraud in the Second Degree, a class "C" Felony,
    - one count of Scheme To Defraud in the First Degree, a class "E" Felony.

    Between Jan, 1, 2010 and Sept., 15, 2015, the defendant, at the time a licensed attorney in the State of New York, engaged in a scheme in which he deliberately defrauded multiple clients of monies entrusted to him for various purposes including the transfer of real estate and estate planning.

    In one instance, the defendant is alleged to have stolen approximately $431,300 from a client intended to complete the purchase of a property.

    In another instance the defendant is alleged to have stolen approximately $159,431.95 from another client. That money was intended to pay off a mortgage to forestall a foreclosure action on that client's property.

    In all, it is alleged that the defendant, in his ongoing scheme, defrauded 13 clients out of approximately $1,487,461.61. Lippman is also accused of non-payment of taxes to New York State in excess of $50,000.

    The investigation was carried out by investigators from the District Attorney's office along with the assistance of the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance.

    The defendant remains out on a bail of $50,000. The defendant will be sentenced on June 8, 2016. He faces a maximum sentence of fifteen years in state prison.
Source: Former Scarsdale Attorney Pleads Guilty For Stealing Over One Million Dollars From His Real Estate Clients.

See, generally, Frederick Miller, "If You Can't Trust Your Lawyer .... ?", 138 Univ. of Pennsylvania Law Rev. 785 (1990) for more on the apparent, long-standing tolerance for deceit by many in the legal profession:
  • This tolerance to deception is encouraged by the profession's institutional civility. Seldom is a fig called a fig, or a shyster a shyster. No, our euphemisms are wonderfully polite: "frivolous conduct," or a "lack of candor;" or "law-office failure;" or, heaven forbid, a "peculation," a "defalcation," or a "negative balance" in a law firms's trust account.

    There is also widespread reluctance on the part of lawyers --- again, some lawyers --- to discuss publicly, much less acknowledge, that they have colleagues who engage in deceit and unprofessional conduct.

    This reluctance is magnified when the brand of deceit involves the theft of client money and property, notwithstanding that most lawyers would agree that stealing from clients is the ultimate ethical transgression.
Editor's Note: Lippman is the same lowlife who, in an unrelated earlier prosecution in The Bronx, settled felony grand larceny charges stemming from allegations that as an attorney in the Bronx Public Administrator’s Office he stole more than $1.5 million from estates he settled. See Lawyer who avoided jail time by paying restitution reportedly steals more money a year later. In that case, Lippman reportedly pleaded guilty to two counts of grand larceny, and avoided jail time by paying approximately $150,000 in restitution, according to a 2014 press release from the Bronx District Attorney’s Office. He was disbarred the same month that the plea agreement was announced.
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(1) Clients found to have been victimized by a theft by a New York attorney may be able to seek some reimbursement for being screwed over by turning to the The Lawyers’ Fund For Client Protection Of the State of New York, which manages and distribute money collected from annual dues paid by members of the state bar to members of the public who have sustained a financial loss caused by the dishonest conduct of a member of the bar acting as an attorney or a fiduciary.

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.

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.

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