Sunday, April 30, 2017

With Probation About To Expire, Broke Ex-Lawyer Who Got Off Easy After Fleecing Clients Out Of Over $1 Million Now Seeks To Beat State's Client Security Fund Out Of $200K Reimbursement He Owes For Money It Shelled Out To His Theft Victims

In Woburn, Massachusetts, the Wilmington Patch reports:
  • A disbarred Wilmington attorney, who served time for swindling clients out of more than $1 million, begged a court official for a probation hearing so he can get out from under more than $200,000 in restitution he is supposed to pay before his probation expires.(1)

    Former attorney Michael F. Germano, 53, of Wilmington, told Middlesex Clerk-Magistrate Michael Sullivan on Wednesday [March 29] that he is in "dire straits'' having lost "everything'' since he pleaded guilty in 2014 to a scheme with his former Boston law partner Peter Lagorio to create" false victims'' of a 2006 ink-plant explosion in Danverport and other cases, then pocketing the settlement payments.

    None of the actual victims of the blast were impacted by this scheme.

    In January of 2014, Germano pleaded guilty to a total of 17 counts of embezzlement, uttering, larceny, conspiracy, and attempted larceny. He was sentenced to one year in jail with six months to serve and the balance suspended for three years while he is on probation. He was ordered to pay restitution.

    The Massachusetts Bar Association used money from its victims' compensation fund to repay the victims of the two lawyers,(1) but Probation Department says Germano was ordered to repay the fund about $200,000.

    Some money has been paid over the years, but a large amount is still owed and cannot be repaid before Germano's probation ends. Prior to a 2016 decision by the state's highest court, judges would either extend a defendant's probation until restitution is paid or invoke the remainder of the jail sentence.

    The state Supreme Judicial Court ruled that defendants can't be held hostage by unpaid restitution.(2)
Source: Disbarred Wilmington Attorney Pleads for Probation Hearing (Michael F. Germano says financially he is in 'dire straits').
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(1) In Massachusetts, the Client Security Fund is a fund established by the state Supreme Judicial Court (and financed by a portion of the annual fees paid by each member of the bar) to provide at least some reimbursement to members of the public who have sustained a financial loss caused by the dishonest conduct of a member of the Massachusetts bar acting as an attorney or a fiduciary.

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:
Maps available courtesy of The National Client Protection Organization, Inc.

(2) See Commonwealth v. Henry, 475 Mass. 117, 55 NE 3d 943 (Mass. 2016):
  • [W]e invoke our superintendence power to declare that a judge may not extend the length of probation where a probationer violated an order of restitution due solely to an inability to pay.[6],[7]
Editor's Note: In footnotes 6 and 7 of the court's decision in Commonwealth v. Henry, the court elaborated on this mandate:
  • [6] A judge remains free to revoke probation or to extend the term of probation where a probationer violates a condition of probation by willfully failing to pay a restitution amount he or she had the ability to pay. See Bearden v. Georgia, 461 U.S. 660, 668 (1983) ("If the probationer has willfully refused to pay the fine or restitution when he has the means to pay, the State is perfectly justified in using imprisonment as a sanction to enforce collection"); Commonwealth v. Avram A., 83 Mass. App. Ct. 208, 212-213 (2013).

    [7] We acknowledge that extending the length of probation in such circumstances has not been recognized to be in violation of Federal constitutional law. See Bearden, 461 U.S. at 674 (where defendant on probation is unable to pay fine, court may extend time for payment).

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