Court Rejects Suicide-Committing Upstate NY Attorney/Lawmaker's Attempt To "Control Reputation From Beyond The Grave"; Unseals FBI Court Documents That Accuse Lawyer Of Filching About $800K From Client Trust Account, Then Killing Himself To Avoid Criminal Prosecution
- The late Assemblyman Bill Nojay illegally misdirected funds from a legal client's escrow account to his campaign, to a registered lobbyist, to a car dealer, to his children, and to pay property taxes on his home, according to the criminal complaint he faced when he killed himself in September.
An attorney, Nojay managed the escrow account for a local architect, the complaint shows. While the complaint, publicly unsealed [last month], does not name the architect, the Democrat and Chronicle earlier reported the individual was prominent architect Carlton "Bud" DeWolff.
The complaint has been sealed since Nojay's suicide in September. U.S. District Judge David Larimer  ruled that the complaint must be unsealed.
Separate court papers which were unsealed  say that Nojay admitted to the wire fraud, and was considering assisting the FBI in a separate investigation, which is not identified in the papers.
In the complaint, the FBI alleged that Nojay diverted about $800,000 in the escrow account for his own use.(1) Nojay allegedly transferred about $221,000 to a Pennsylvania bank account "belonging to a business affiliated with Nojay," says an affidavit from FBI Special Agent Daniel A. Ciavarri.
Nojay faced the charge of wire fraud when he fatally shot himself, shortly before he was to appear in court. His death came just four days before a Republican primary in which he was a candidate. Nojay, who lived in Pittsford, was seeking re-election to a second term in Albany.
After the suicide, the Democrat and Chronicle filed a motion, seeking the complaint's public release. The U.S. Attorney's Office agreed it should be unsealed.
***As a final test of his probity, Nojay canceled a scheduled appearance at a political function and agreed to undergo a polygraph examination on the afternoon and evening of Sept. 8. But the results “indicated deception,” according to [Assistant U.S. Attorney John] Field’s Sept. 21 filing, and prosecutors told him they were going ahead with the criminal case against him. He asked if it could be kept quiet, but they warned him to expect publicity.
Late that night, his lawyer asked Field to delay the criminal case and passed on an offer from Nojay to recruit another party to cooperate in the ongoing federal investigation. Field wrote in his statement that he offered to pass on the request to his superiors, but that a delay was unlikely given Nojay’s failure to provide reliable information on that other case.
Nojay shot himself to death the following morning rather than report to court.
In his statement, Field wrote that “when meaningful proactive cooperation did not materialize, the justification for postponing criminal charges disappeared.
“At that point, the government had two choices: 1) not charge Nojay, and permit him to stand for another election cycle knowing he had committed a serious crime, and, in fact, had admitted to committing that crime; or 2) charge Nojay, and let the public decide what to do with that information.
“Unfortunately, as we now know, there was another option that Nojay had in mind. That choice was tragic, but that does not give Nojay the right to control his reputation from beyond the grave,” Field concluded.
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:
- Directory Of Lawyers' Funds For Client Protection (now includes a listing for Canadian client protection funds, courtesy of the American Bar Association);
- Check the USA Client Protection Funds Map;
- Check the Canada Client Protection Funds Map.