Sunday, October 13, 2019
Disbarment has been imposed by the New Jersey Supreme Court for misconduct described by the Disciplinary Review Board
For the reasons set forth below, we recommend respondent’s disbarment. In our view, respondent is a serial self-dealer who preys on and exploits the bereaved. Moreover, it is clear that he is unwilling to learn from prior mistakes and, thus, refuses to conform his conduct to that required of a member of the New Jersey bar.
He had previously been censured
This case arises from respondent’s attempt to continue engaging in the unethical conduct for which he received a censure in La Russo I. In short, respondent, who performed collection work for several New Jersey funeral homes, perpetrated a scheme whereby the beneficiaries of deceased members of the State-administered Public Employees Retirement Plan (PERS) paid respondent to ensure that his funeral home clients received payment for undertaking the funeral arrangements of the deceased PERS members.
The arrangement created a conflict of interest
his representation of the PERS beneficiaries was materially limited by his responsibilities to the funeral homes, as well as by his own interests - the collection of a legal fee.
Here, although the record does not establish that the beneficiaries in this case were either frail and elderly or of limited cognitive ability or competency, they were highly vulnerable. They were required to make funeral arrangements for their loved ones immediately, without the opportunity to mentally and emotionally process their deaths. Respondent swooped in, took advantage of their emotionally-weakened states of mind, and picked their pockets. In most cases, the beneficiaries had no idea that they were beholden to respondent and simply acceded to his demands for payment, undoubtedly to avoid further stress in their time of sorrow.
Respondent’s predatory behavior was exacerbated by his multiple lies to the beneficiaries, the Division, and, in particular, the OAE...
Respondent’s conduct in the Funeral Home matters demonstrates the pathological nature of his insistence in entangling himself in conflicts of interest, without concern for those who may be harmed, as well as a disturbing degree of venality. He persisted in his outlandish conduct, despite the prior declaration that his practices were unethical. In addition, respondent’s arrangement of a loan from his girlfriend to his client, after he had been censured in La Russo I and while he was under investigation in La Russo II, demonstrate a lack of good judgment, good character, and willingness to learn from prior mistakes.