March 14, 2013
An attorney found culpable on several bar charges was suspended for two years by the New York Appellate Division for the Second Judicial Department.
The court noted
At the hearing, the respondent testified in mitigation that he was "used" or "led down the wrong path" by his employer, which he characterizes as an unscrupulous real estate development company that forged his name on checks. The Special Referee found the respondent's testimony in this regard to be credible, specifically finding the respondent to be a "cog" who followed, but did not initiate or control, the practices in the company. The respondent testified to his remorse, his efforts to make his victims whole, and the fact that he did not misappropriate any funds for his personal use and realized no monetary gain from the subject transactions.
However, the respondent, who was employed by United Homes as a "closer" when the misconduct occurred, knew that his conduct was improper and violated basic rules governing escrowed funds. He nevertheless took no action to blow the whistle or step down from his position as in-house counsel with the company. Rather, he knowingly allowed his services to be used by another to perpetrate a fraud. Furthermore, the respondent was not candid with the Grievance Committee when questioned initially about the transactions.
Under the totality of circumstances, and balancing the significant mitigation present in this case against the respondent's misconduct, the respondent is suspended from the practice of law for two years.
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