Monday, October 3, 2016

New York Lawyer Gets Prison Time for Stealing $5 Million From Clients

Stuart A. Schlesinger, a disbarred lawyer
A lawyer who practiced for half a century in New York and built one of the city’s leading personal injury practices was sentenced to six and a half years in prison on Friday for stealing more than $5 million from clients.

The lawyer, Stuart A. Schlesinger, 76, misappropriated the funds from settlements he had negotiated in cases involving medical malpractice and other injuries, and then used the money to pay expenses including mortgage bills, the government had alleged.

“He converted his law license to a license to steal,” said Judge William H. Pauley III before imposing the sentence, which included an order that Mr. Schlesinger forfeit more than $5 million and pay restitution.

The proceeding was highly charged, with rows of victims observing from the spectator gallery. Some wept openly. Others made angry comments. More than a half-dozen victims addressed the judge personally, recounting the hardships Mr. Schlesinger had caused them, as well as his never-ending excuses, as one victim put it.

The victim, Margaret Last, rattled off some of Mr. Schlesinger’s excuses: “He was short-staffed. He was making sure everything was in order. He had a virus. He had problems with his back and his knee. The office was moving. He didn’t know how to work a fax machine.”

Ms. Last is still owed $660,000, her share of a settlement of a medical malpractice lawsuit that Mr. Schlesinger negotiated on her behalf, according to Christopher Cobb, a lawyer who now represents her.

Another victim, Kenneth Lawler, who is owed $900,000 from the settlement of a lawsuit alleging medical malpractice in the death of his son, said, “Every time I have to return to this matter, it brings back sad memories.”

Matthew J. Laroche, a prosecutor in the office of Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, told the judge that Mr. Schlesinger did not care that his victims were plaintiffs who were already “suffering from life-altering injuries or the death of a loved one.

“He stole their money and lied to them and left them revictimized and broken,” Mr. Laroche said.

Murray Richman, Mr. Schlesinger’s lawyer, said his client’s actions had been reprehensible.

“I’m also angry at what he’s done to the legal community,” Mr. Richman said. “He’s made every lawyer’s word less meaningful.”

Mr. Schlesinger, who ran a firm called Julien & Schlesinger and who is now disbarred, made a rambling apology, facing the judge at times and also turning to the victims. “I know what I did,” he said. “I know the extent of what I did, and I know how terrible it is.”

He added: “I’ve lost everything that I’ve earned in 50 years. I lost my license. I lost my respect. I have terrible issues with family.”

Judge Pauley, of Federal District Court in Manhattan, observed that Mr. Schlesinger had become a prominent lawyer who was “at the apex” of the personal injury bar in New York. But the case revealed “that under the veneer of an accomplished and highly respected attorney, Mr. Schlesinger was really a predator — his conduct was long running and devastating to the individuals he victimized,” the judge said.

He also noted that Mr. Schlesinger had amassed a fortune in real estate, selling an elegant brownstone on the Upper East Side of Manhattan for more than $20 million about a decade ago, and earlier buying a property on Quogue, on Long Island, that is appraised for more than $11 million.

The Quogue property, which according to real estate listings is an eight-bedroom house on five and a half acres, with a pool and a hot tub overlooking the ocean, is for sale, currently priced at $10 million.

The judge also suggested that Mr. Schlesinger had been hiding assets, noting he had not disclosed that he had borrowed more than $2 million against the Quogue property. He said that Mr. Schlesinger had also “apparently been busy selling personal property, including artworks,” and after selling some, he had deposited more than $65,000 in his wife’s account.

Judge Pauley said the court’s probation department reported that bank statements reflected other significant deposits for which the sources were unknown.

“So it really seems, Mr. Schlesinger, that the fraudulent conduct continues,” the judge said.

Full Article & Source:
New York Lawyer Gets Prison Time for Stealing $5 Million From Clients

1 comment:

James said...

He deserves every day of prison time. Shame on him for stealing from his clients and for embarrassing his profession.