Sunday, June 25, 2017

Unable To Resist Urge To Fleece Dead Clients' Estates, Long Island Lawyer Gets Shipped Off For 1 To 3-Year Stay In State Prison; $900K+ In Thefts Include $400K+ Sale Proceeds Of One Victim's Home

From the Office of the Nassau County, New York District Attorney:
  • Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced that a disbarred attorney was sentenced yesterday [June 12] to one to three years in prison and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $597,024.10 for stealing from his clients’ estates.(1)

    Robert Alan Wagner, 63, of Bellmore, pleaded guilty before Judge Robert Bogle on March 20 to two counts of Grand Larceny in the 2nd Degree (a C felony).

    This defendant swindled his clients, stealing more than $900,000 and used it to enrich himself and his business,” DA Singas said. “Our Government and Consumer Frauds Bureau has prosecuted more than 15 attorneys in recent years for scamming their clients and this sentence should send a clear message that lawyers who break the law will face serious consequences.”

    DA Singas said that Wagner was first arrested in September 2016 for allegedly stealing more than $400,000 which were the proceeds from the sale of the decedent’s home. At that time, he was released on $200,000 bail with a requirement that he wear a monitor tracking device as well as that he surrender his passport.

    The defendant paid most of the beneficiaries their entitled bequests prior to the commencement of the DA’s investigation, with the last beneficiary receiving $100,000 subsequent to the investigation and prior to the defendant’s arrest.

    The first investigation and review of bank records led to Wagner’s second arrest in November 2016. Wagner was retained by the administrator of a French estate to facilitate the transfer of money from the decedent’s Suffolk County-based bank accounts to accounts in France in November 2013. The defendant was not authorized to distribute, transfer or use the estate funds. However, the investigation revealed that Wagner transferred the estate funds into four of his own Nassau County-based bank accounts between June 2014 and January 2016, ultimately stealing more than $500,000.

    Between May 2014 and April 2015, the French estate administrator repeatedly attempted to contact Wagner to verify the status of the funds transfer. During that time the defendant gave false excuses, saying that he was attending to personal and family health issues, on vacation, or waiting for court approval to transfer funds. The defendant used the money for personal purposes, including cash withdrawals in excess of $250,000 and payments to support his law practice.

    The investigation continued after the second arrest and revealed an additional victim and client theft from a Family Trust of approximately $11,000. In total, Wagner stole more than $900,000.00 from his clients.

    The defendant was legally practicing law when he was retained, but was disbarred by the Appellate Division of the New York State Court of Appeals on March 11, 2015, proximate to the time when he was to facilitate the transfer of estate funds. The disbarment was unrelated to this matter.
Source: Disbarred Attorney Sentenced to 1-3 Years for Stealing more than $900,000 from Clients’ Estate Funds (Robert Wagner was arrested on two separate occasions).
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(1) In New York, The Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection was created to provide a source of, at least partial, reimbursement to clients who have suffered monetary losses at the hands of dishonest lawyers licensed and practicing in the state.

According to their website, typical losses reimbursed by the Lawyers' Fund include the theft of estate and trust assets, escrow deposits in real property transactions, settlements in personal injury litigation, debt collection receipts, money embezzled in investment transactions with law clients, and unearned fees paid in advance to lawyers who falsely promise their legal services.

Perhaps the best of all the attorney ripoff reimbursement funds in the U.S. in terms of its payout limits, the Fund places a $400,000 maximum limit, per law client loss, on awards from the Fund, fixed by regulation of the Fund's Trustees. There is no aggregate maximum on awards involving one lawyer.

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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