Thursday, July 11, 2019

Hall Of Infame

A convicted attorney was disbarred by the New York Appellate Division for the Third Judicial Department for crimes

Stemming from his theft of monies belonging to a revocable trust while providing legal representation to certain of its beneficiaries, respondent pleaded guilty on April 30, 2019 to grand larceny in the first degree, a class B felony (see Penal Law § 155.42).

The charges were described by the US Attorney for the Northern District of New York

 Thomas K. Lagan, age 60, of Cooperstown, New York, and formerly of Slingerlands, New York, was arraigned today on money laundering and tax charges relating to the theft of approximately $11.8 million from estates for which he served as a fiduciary. 

The announcement was made by United States Attorney Grant C. Jaquith; New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood; James N. Hendricks, Special Agent in Charge of the Albany Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and James D. Robnett, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Office of IRS-Criminal Investigation.

A federal indictment charges that Lagan, between November 2011 and February 2018, conspired with Richard J. Sherwood to launder the proceeds of a fraud conspiracy.  Lagan is also accused of failing to report more than $5.3 million in income to the Internal Revenue Service in 2013 and 2015.  In a separate indictment being prosecuted by the New York Attorney General’s Office, Lagan is charged in Albany County Court with grand larceny in the first degree, criminal possession of stolen property, and a scheme to defraud.  The charges in the indictments are merely accusations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Lagan appeared today before United States Magistrate Judge Daniel J. Stewart, who ordered him released on his own recognizance. 

If convicted on the federal charges, Lagan would face up to 20 years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, and up to 3 years of post-imprisonment supervised release.  A defendant’s sentence is imposed by a judge based on the particular statute the defendant is charged with violating, the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other factors. 

Lagan’s alleged co-conspirator, Sherwood, pled guilty in June 2018 to federal and state charges. 

Sherwood, an attorney since 1988, practiced primarily in the area of trusts and estates.  Starting in about 2006, he provided estate planning and related legal services to Capital Region philanthropists Warren and Pauline Bruggeman, and to Pauline’s sister, Anne Urban, all of Niskayuna, New York.  Sherwood was advising the Bruggemans when, in 2006, they signed wills directing that all their assets go to charities, churches and civic organizations, aside from bequests to Anne Urban and Julia Rentz, Pauline’s other sister.

Warren Bruggeman died in April 2009, and Pauline died in August 2011.  At the time of her death, Pauline had personal and trust assets valued at approximately $20 million.

In pleading guilty, Sherwood admitted that after Pauline Bruggeman’s death, he and Lagan conspired to steal and launder millions of dollars from her estate as well as from Anne Urban, who died in 2013.  Their conspiracy came to include the diversion and transfer to themselves of several million dollars belonging to Julia Rentz, a resident of Ohio, who was suffering from dementia at the time of the thefts and died in 2013. 

(Mike Frisch)

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