Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Taxi King Gets An Interim Suspension

An attorney dubbed the Taxi King has been suspended by the New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department.

The Attorney Grievance Committee (Committee) seeks an order, pursuant to the Rules for Attorney Disciplinary Matters (22 NYCRR) 1240.9(a)(2) and (3), immediately suspending respondent from the practice of law until further order of this Court based on his failure to cooperate with the Committee's sua sponte investigations into dishonored checks drawn against his IOLA account and on admissions under oath that he committed professional misconduct.

Although respondent has now provided a list of the legal matters he is involved with and has explained why he is having difficulty obtaining his bank records for his previous IOLA account, he has failed to provide court records evidencing his appearances as attorney of record involving himself or his companies, failed to answer the two most recent dishonored check investigations commenced in late 2016, and has failed to provide verification that the pending contempt motion involving Citibank has indeed been withdrawn. In addition, respondent has still not turned over three months worth of bank records for his current IOLA account.

While respondent has detailed the many challenges he is currently facing both personally and professionally, his failure to cooperate with the Committee's investigation threatens the public interest and warrants an interim suspension (see e.g. Matter of Evans, 142 AD3d 122 [1st Dept 2016] [interim suspension warranted where attorney ultimately appeared for deposition but subsequently failed to, inter alia, produce requested IOLA account records]; Matter of Reid, 137 AD3d 25 [1st Dept 2016] [interim suspension warranted where attorney, who initially provided limited cooperation via bank records and appearing for a deposition, subsequently failed to answer two complaints and to provide requested trust account information]).

As for respondent's admissions of having maintained personal and business funds in his IOLA account and of not maintaining required bookkeeping records, such conduct does not "immediately threaten[] the public interest," but will most likely result in formal charges and a sanction after a hearing (see Matter of Reid, 137 AD3d at 29).

The New York Post reported on his recent arrest and has links to a series of articles. 

Notorious “Taxi King” Gene Freidman was arrested at his Manhattan home on charges he ripped off the state for millions of dollars in taxi surcharges, authorities said Wednesday.

Freidman, who has been subject to a slew of criminal charges, civil suits, and professional penalties over the past two years, has been indicted and will be presented this afternoon in Albany to face four counts of criminal tax fraud in the first degree and one count of first-degree grand larceny, said a spokesman for state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Each charge carries a maximum sentence of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison.

Freidman failed to hand over more than $5 million collected in 50 cent surcharges on cab rides that is supposed to go to the state to help pay for the MTA, said Schneiderman.

“The ‘Taxi King’ built his empire by stealing from New Yorkers – pocketing money that should have instead been invested in our transportation system,” said Schneiderman. “No one is above the law, and my office will use every tool available to hold accountable those who cheat the system.”

Cops busted Freidman at his Upper East Side home Tuesday and took him upstate this morning to face the charges.

Earlier this year, the Taxi & Limousine Commission took away Freidman’s cab management licenses and he lost dozens of the cabs he owned to bankruptcy, but he still has a few dozen.

His cab ownership operations reportedly hit hard times thanks to ride-share apps such as Uber. Freidman, 46, who has been choosing to represent himself in recent court cases, is in police custody and could not be reached for comment.

(Mike Frisch)

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