Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the recent press release by the New York County District Attorney regarding a New York lawyer who was recently indicted for stealing personal injury settlement funds from numerous clients and then sending fraudulent letters to a New York disciplinary committee purportedly from clients requesting that their complaints be dismissed. The New York County District Attorney’s (Cyrus Vance, Jr.) press release is here: http://manhattanda.org/press-release/attorney-indicted-years-long-scheme-defraud-clients-0.
The lawyer, John M. Ioannou, who practices in Manhattan, was indicted on charges of misappropriating clients’ personal injury settlement funds and forging documents submitted to a disciplinary committee. The charges include allegations that the lawyer stole “hundreds of thousands of dollars” from clients by having them sign documents authorizing the payments and then taking the money himself, according to the indictment filed by the New York County District Attorney’s Office.
According to the press release, the lawyer misappropriated the funds and then did not communicate with the clients. After the clients filed complaints with the entity that investigates lawyer disciplinary complaints, the lawyer allegedly tried to make an agreement with the clients to turn over the money if they withdrew the Bar complaints. When clients subsequently refused, the lawyer sent false letters to the disciplinary committee in their names purportedly requesting that the complaints be withdrawn. The lawyer also allegedly threatened to report other clients to law enforcement if they did not withdraw their complaints.
According to media reports, the lawyer pleaded not guilty on August 22, 2012 to all charges in the 19 count indictment, which include second and third degree grand larceny and second degree forgery, at his arraignment before an acting supreme court justice who set bail at either a $50,000.00 cash bond or a $100,000.00 secured bond. Also according to the media reports, the lawyer was admitted in New York in 1983 and was suspended from practice for three months in 2011. He also received a public censure in 2007 and two admonitions for misconduct in 2003 and 2004.
Bottom line: Not much to say except for “don’t lie, cheat, and/or steal” and also the cover-up may be as bad as the crime. Of course, this lawyer is presumed innocent unless and until he is proven guilty.
Be careful out there!
As always, if you have any questions about this Ethics Alert or need assistance, analysis, and guidance regarding these or any other ethics, risk management, or other issues, please do not hesitate to contact me.
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Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
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