Tuesday, June 25, 2013
The New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department has disbarred an attorney for misappropriation, rejecting a referee recommendation for a lesser sanction.
The court described the purported mitigation
Respondent attributes his misconduct to the federal prosecution of a wide-spread insurance fraud involving a number of medical clinics, several of which were his clients, which culminated in the seizure by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of funds maintained in one of respondent's escrow account and held on behalf of those clients. According to respondent, the targeted funds had already been disbursed prior to the seizure. Thus, respondent argues, no venal intent has been established and, as such, the intentional conversion charge should have been dismissed. Respondent further takes issue with the two aggravating circumstances found by the Hearing Panel, arguing that it put misplaced emphasis on "these post-hearing, uncharged and mischaracterized afterthoughts." Finally, respondent contends that the Panel gave "short shrift" to the four cases cited by counsel in support of censure or a short suspension.
...respondent failed to establish that the seizure of escrow funds by the FBI constituted "extremely unusual mitigating evidence" that bore the requisite causal relationship to his misconduct. Respondent conceded that all of his conversions could not be attributed to the seizure; nor did the circumstances prevent respondent from taking appropriate action in response, particularly, informing his clients that their funds had been seized.