Sunday, May 29, 2016

76-Year Old Lawyer Loses Last Case Of His Career, Bowing Out w/ Guilty Plea To Raiding Client Trust Account Of Over $5 Million

In New York City, the New York Law Journal reports:
  • A disbarred lawyer pleaded guilty in federal court earlier this [month] to defrauding clients out of more than $5 million.

    Stuart A. Schlesinger [] admitted to one count of wire fraud before Southern District Judge William Pauley.

    Schlesinger's attorney, Murray Richman of the Bronx, said his client, once a name partner at the now-disbanded firm Julien & Schlesinger, allocuted to fraud in excess of $5 million. A wire fraud conviction carries a sentence of up to 20 years.

    The Southern District U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI announced Schlesinger's arrest in December 2015 for stealing personal injury settlement proceeds (NYLJ, Dec. 18, 2015). Schlesinger, 76, waived indictment in the case.

    By the time of his arrest, Schlesinger had already been disbarred by the Appellate Division, First Department, for several months. He resigned from the bar, saying he could not successfully fight disciplinary misconduct claims of misappropriating some $600,000 in settlement funds.

    Schlesinger graduated from Fordham University School of Law and was admitted to the bar in 1965. Richman said his client would make an effort at restitution. "It's a sad day to see a lawyer fall so far," Richman said.

    Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 16.
Source: Disbarred Attorney Admits Defrauding Clients of $5M (may require paid subscription; if no subscription, GO HERE, then click the appropriate link to the story).

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.[...] The fact is, however, that theft of client property is not an insignificant or isolated problem within the legal profession. Indeed, it is a hounding phenomenon nationwide, and probably the principal reason why most lawyers nationwide are disbarred from the practice of law.
(1) The Lawyers’ Fund For Client Protection Of the State of New York manages and distributes 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 New York 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.