Sunday, May 28, 2017

'American Gangster' Prosecutor, Law Partner Face Charges Of Allegedly Ripping Off Over $140K Of Client Cash, Then Lying Under Oath To Cover Their Tracks; Prosecutor: Defendants "Treated Their Attorney Trust Account Like A Personal Slush Fund..."

In Newark, New Jersey, reports:
  • A former prosecutor whose takedown of Harlem heroin kingpin Frank Lucas was dramatized in the film "American Gangster" now faces theft and conspiracy charges after state authorities accused him and his law partner of stealing from clients at their private practice.

    Richie Roberts and partner Gerald Saluti were indicted Wednesday [May 17] on charges they misused more than $140,000 and then lied under oath to cover their tracks.(1)

    Reached by phone, Roberts -- who pleaded guilty in federal court to tax crimes last month -- professed innocence and said he told state prosecutors he would gladly submit to a lie detector test.

    "To satisfy the Star-Ledger and myself, I'll take a polygraph today," he said.

    According to the state Division of Criminal Justice, which brought the charges, Roberts and Saluti allegedly conspired with an administrator at their firm, the Saluti Law Group, to steal settlement money and escrow funds from four clients in 2012 and 2013.

    Elie Honig, the division's director, said in a statement the lawyers "treated their attorney trust account like a personal slush fund that they spent on everything from cars and entertainment to, in Roberts' case, paying alimony."

    When clients began complaining, the two allegedly reported the thefts to law enforcement -- and then tried to pin them on the administrator, Gabriel Iannacone.

    Saluti could not be reached and his attorney did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. Ianncone pleaded guilty to third degree theft charges in January and is awaiting sentencing, according to prosecutors.
    The state and federal charges marked a long fall for Roberts, a prominent defense attorney with a storied career in law enforcement.

    Roberts served as a detective and then an assistant Essex County prosecutor in the 1970s, when he obtained an indictment against Lucas -- the most powerful heroin dealer in Harlem -- for Lucas' role in a Newark drug ring.

    The case was later made into the 2007 film "American Gangster," starring Russell Crowe as Roberts and Denzel Washington as Lucas.

    "For all those years, I never did anything wrong, I did everything on the up and up," Roberts said. "Suddenly I'm conspiring (to frame somebody)?"
For the story, see 'American Gangster' prosecutor, partner charged with stealing from clients.

For the New Jersey Attorney General press release, see Two Suspended Newark Lawyers Indicted on Charges They Stole Over $140,000 From Clients of Their Law Firm.
(1) The New Jersey Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection was established to reimburse clients who have suffered a loss due to dishonest conduct of a member of the New Jersey Bar.

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.

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