Sunday, May 08, 2016

Another Attorney (68-Years Old) Nearing The End Of His Career Gets Pinched For Alleging Swindling Trust Account Cash From At Least Two Clients While Both Were Subject To Ongoing Bankruptcy Proceedings; Suspect Had Recently Resigned From State Bar Over Same Allegations

In Bridgeport, Connecticut, The Connecticut Law Tribune reports:
  • A longtime former New Haven bankruptcy attorney who recently resigned from the bar over allegations of mishandling client funds is now facing a federal criminal charge. Peter Ressler, 68, of Woodbridge, was charged April 25 with embezzlement of debtors' funds, according to the Connecticut U.S. Attorney's Office.

    Ressler appeared the same day before U.S. Magistrate Judge William Garfinkel in Bridgeport and was released on a $100,000 bond. If convicted, Ressler could face up to five years' imprisonment.

    The U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Connecticut alerted the U.S. Attorney's Office after it reportedly identified criminal conduct by Ressler in at least two cases involving debtors he represented, according to prosecutors. One debtor gave Ressler $450,000, the proceeds of a legal settlement, which Ressler was supposed to hold for the benefit of the debtor and its creditors. A different debtor entrusted Ressler's firm with about $321,409. Ressler allegedly embezzled most of the funds for his own purposes.(1)

    The FBI has an ongoing investigation into the matter. Special Agent Timothy Simao wrote in an affidavit dated April 25 that Ressler, in interviews, acknowledged embezzling money from two debtors, 329 Green Street and Eternal Enterprise Inc., "as well as to a wider range of embezzlements involving other clients.

    "Ressler has been cooperating with authorities to unpack the scope of the relevant losses caused by his actions," Simao wrote.
    ***
    Ressler submitted his written resignation from the Connecticut bar on March 18, and has waived the privilege of applying for readmission. He appeared in New Haven Superior Court for a hearing and formal court acceptance of his resignation and waiver on April 7.

    Ressler had self-reported to the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel that he violated the Rules of Professional Conduct, including Rule 1.15, which deals with the safekeeping of property, and Rule 8.4 (4), which includes misconduct, specifically engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.
For more, see Feds Charge Former Conn. Bankruptcy Attorney With Embezzlement (may require paid subscription; if no subscription, TRY HERE, then click appropriate link for the story).

For the U.S. Attorney press release, see Bankruptcy Attorney Charged with Embezzling Funds.

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 Client Security Fund is a fund established by the rules of the Connecticut Superior Court to provide reimbursement to individuals who have lost money or property as a result of the dishonest conduct of an attorney practicing law in the State of Connecticut, in the course of the attorney-client relationship. The fund provides a remedy for clients who are unable to obtain reimbursement for their loss from any other source.

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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