Sunday, May 29, 2016

Another Pilfering Lawyer Pinched By Manhattan DA Joins Prison Parade, Gets 2 1/3-To-7 Years In State Slammer For $800K+ Swindle; Victims Include Two Dead Clients, Heirs, Parties In Real Estate Deal

From the Office of the New York County (Manhattan) District Attorney:
  • Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., [] announced the sentencing of JOHN TODOROVICH, 63, an attorney, to 2 ⅓-to-7 years in state prison for stealing more than $800,000 from two former clients’ estate accounts and a deposit owed to a former client related to the sale of his apartment.(1) On April 4, 2016, the defendant pleaded guilty in New York State Supreme Court to two counts of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree and on April 25, 2016 the defendant pleaded guilty in New York State Supreme Court to one additional count of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree.

    “John Todorovich took an oath to act in his clients’ best interests, but he violated that oath by draining their accounts,” said District Attorney Vance. “Theft and fraud committed by attorneys erodes confidence in the entire legal profession. I thank the prosecutors in my Office’s Financial Frauds Bureau for putting a stop to this theft and I encourage anyone who believes that he or she may have been the victim of this type of fraud to call my Office’s Financial Frauds hotline at 212-335-8900.”

    As admitted in the defendant’s guilty plea, TODOROVICH, who specialized in trusts and estates as well as real estate transactions, previously owned John B. Todorovich, a law practice previously located at 355 Lexington Avenue in Midtown. On April 26, 2010, while serving as the co-executor of the estate of a former client, the defendant stole $267,000 from the estate’s account by transferring the money into his business and personal accounts. In a second theft, from August 12, 2011 to July 31, 2012, while serving as the executor of the estate of a former client, TODOROVICH stole approximately $368,000 in a similar manner.

    On August 16, 2012, TODOROVICH was representing the seller of a property located at 83 East 7th Street. A potential buyer provided the defendant with a check for $220,000 as a deposit for the property to be held in escrow. Instead, TODOROVICH deposited the check into his Interest on Lawyer Accounts and, over the next two months, made numerous transfers of the funds to his personal accounts, depleting the deposit almost entirely.

    TODOROVICH spent more than $800,000 of the stolen money on personal expenses, including memberships to country clubs and car payments for a Mercedes.
Source: DA Vance: John Todorovich Sentenced To 2 1/3-To-7 Years In State Prison For Stealing More Than $800,000 (Attorney Convicted of Stealing From Estate and Escrow Accounts).

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.