Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Unauthorized Practice Fee Results In Theft Plea

The New Jersey Supreme Court has suspended an attorney for one year.

From the Disciplinary Review Board report

on October 24, 2013, the Kings County District Attorney’s Office filed a criminal complaint against respondent, which sets forth facts relating to her unauthorized practice of law. On November 15, 2013, the Honorable Gene R. Lopez, Criminal Court, City of New York, filed a complaint with the Committee on Professional Standards, Third Judicial Department, which also briefly outlined respondent’s misconduct. According to Judge Lopez’ letter, on October i0 and 17, 2013, respondent, as the defendant’s attorney, appeared before him in a criminal matter, New York v Alex Breytman, Supreme Court, Kings County. During respondent’s appearance, she informed the judge that she was admitted to practice law in New York and offered him a business card listing her New Jersey office address.

Shortly after her appearance, the "Admissions Attorney" provided the judge with written confirmation that respondent had been suspended since October 24, 2009.

Thereafter, on October 24, 2013, respondent again appeared before Judge Lopez. When the judge informed her that she had been suspended, based on her "failing to register," respondent maintained that she had been unaware of her suspension, and "stated that she had neglected to register as a result of moving to Florida." Judge Lopez learned that, when respondent left the courtroom, she was arrested and subsequently charged with grand larceny in the third degree and other related charges.

 In the criminal case

According to the complaint, Svetlana Breytman had retained respondent to represent her son, Alex, in a criminal proceeding at the suggestion of a family friend. On October 17, 2013, Svetlana gave respondent a $5,000 check toward the $i0,000 fee. Svetlana maintained that she would not have retained respondent or tendered a fee had she known respondent was suspended at the time. Therefore, respondent did not have permission or authority to take or possess the $5,000...

On December 22, 2015, before the Honorable Daniel K. Chun, Kings County, Criminal Division, respondent entered a guilty plea to third degree grand larceny, N.Y.P.L. §155.35, in return for five years of probation and restitution. She admitted that, from about October 5 through October 17, 2013, she stole Svetlana Breytman’s property, valued at in excess of $3,000.

The Office of Attorney Ethics had sought disbarment

Under the circumstances present here, respondent’s guilty plea to grand larceny, which falls far short of the knowing misappropriation of client funds, does not warrant disbarment. Rather, based on the above precedent for practicing while suspended, we determine that a one-year suspension is appropriate for respondent’s violations of RPC 5.5(a), RPC 8.4(b), RPC 8.4(c), and RPC 8.4(d).

 (Mike Frisch)


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