5+ Years After Fleecing Clients For Million$, Aging, & Now-Indigent & Disbarred Attorney Gets Six Years In Federal Prison
- A disbarred Marin lawyer who conned investors of more than $4.5 million was sentenced to six years in prison for securities fraud, federal authorities said.
James Seltzer, 69, also accumulated more than $20 million in debts to other people, the prosecution said.
“Seltzer perpetrated a brazen scheme of securities fraud against victims who knew him, trusted him, and in some cases, loved him,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Lucey wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “Rather than returning that trust and affection, Seltzer betrayed it, wielding it like a weapon to steal millions of dollars from investors in order to finance an extravagant lifestyle of decadence, debauchery, and deceit.”
His public defender argued for a three-year sentence, citing Seltzer’s dire medical condition. He is a diabetic with congestive heart failure and kidney disease, said the public defender, Varell Fuller.
“He comes before this court a ruined man, at the end of his life,” Fuller wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “He was once a respected lawyer with friends, family, and colleagues.
“He has few friends or family. He finds himself living alone in a rented room imprisoned in a body racked with illness. His only income is Social Security.”
Seltzer, who lived in Belvedere when the case unfolded, was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2015 on five counts of securities fraud, one count of mail fraud and three counts of money laundering. Federal authorities allege the crimes occurred between 2005 and 2011 and involved 16 victims.(1)
Authorities said Seltzer solicited money from clients and their friends for sham investments in stocks or overseas real estate. He allegedly claimed that he had investment access to shares of private companies before they were publicly traded.
Seltzer deposited the funds in personal bank accounts and used the money for expenses such as mortgage payments, credit card bills, travel or paying back earlier investors.
“In some cases, Seltzer even entered into seemingly romantic relationships with several women in order to gain their trust and then rip them off,” Lucey wrote.
In September, Seltzer accepted a plea deal and admitted to one count of securities fraud. He was sentenced Wednesday [February 15] by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose.
Seltzer was ordered to surrender by April 19 to serve his sentence.
Seltzer, who got his law license in 1972, was disbarred in California in July 2014 over allegations he misappropriated hundreds of thousands of dollars in client or settlement funds,(2) according to the state bar.
(2) The California State Bar's Client Security Fund is a public service of the California legal profession, intended to help protect consumers of legal services by alleviating losses resulting from the dishonest conduct of attorneys. The amount the fund may reimburse for theft committed by a California lawyer depends on when the loss occurred. A maximum of $50,000 is reimbursable if the loss occurred before January 1, 2009. A maximum of $100,000 is reimbursable if the loss occurred on or after January 1, 2009.
For similar "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that sometimes help cover the financial mess created by the dishonest conduct of lawyers licensed in other states and Canada, see:
- Directory Of Lawyers' Funds For Client Protection (February 2017) (includes Canadian recovery funds, courtesy of the American Bar Association);
- Check the USA Client Protection Funds Map;
- Check the Canada Client Protection Funds Map.