Stuart Schlesinger, 76, who practiced for over 50 years in the city of New York, has been arrested on a fraud charge. The former personal injury lawyer who represented clients and negotiated settlements on their behalf is being accused of keeping more than $5 million for himself. Schlesinger was arraigned before a federal judge in Manhattan.
As the New York Times reports, Schlesinger’s clients had been complaining for some time that they had not received their entitlements. The lawyer had always responded with a slew of excuses.
“We’re short-staffed,” he said in an email to Kenneth Lawler, a client who was owed more than $900,000.
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The whopping settlement had come from a medical malpractice lawsuit filed over the death of his son in a hospital in New Jersey. In another email to Lawler, Schlesinger said that “our phones and computer systems were down.” In a third email, he said he was “sorry for the delay,” adding on a friendly note, “waiting for our golf game.”
Lawler, 63, said the settlement had been reached four years ago, but he has yet to receive a penny.
Schlesinger confessed to Judge William H. Pauley III that he had held on to some settlements that had been paid as far back as 2008 and used it for personal benefit. When asked how much he had taken from his clients by the judge, Schlesinger said “approximately $5 million.”
Albin Luczak had complained that he was owed $1.1 million from a dental malpractice settlement after a root canal operation had required him to undergo several surgical processes. Despite several requests, he said Schlesinger did not pay him the money.
Several of his former clients were in court as the 76-year-old pleaded guilty to fraudulent charges that could raft him a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
Murray Richman, attorney to Schlesinger, said his client had pleaded guilty and was making every attempt to ensure that he paid all the money he had accumulated.
“He’s making every effort toward restitution, he’s selling everything he’s got,” he said.
One of the assets that Schlesinger hopes to forfeit is an eight-bedroom house on Long Island, New York, listed for $11.5 million. In the listing, the expansive house is described as built on five and a half acres and is advertised as having a beautiful pool and a hot tub that overlooks the ocean.
Schlesinger is no longer practicing law because a disciplinary committee pushed for his suspension after his embezzling was discovered. He agreed to give up his law license and was disbarred. But the process took over 12 months, during which time he continued to represent clients and filed at least another medical malpractice lawsuit.
Schlesinger bagged his law degree in 1964 from Fordham University and joined a small firm where he rose to become partner with another personal injury lawyer, Alfred Julien. Joseph Forstadt, a friend to Schlesinger, said his friend had a great reputation for winning favorable settlements for people, prompting him to send personal injury cases to his friend.
“Stuart was known as the guy who could sit down with insurance companies and get the best deal possible,” Forstadt said.
Schlesinger was arrested in December, but he was released on a $1 million bond secured with his property in Long Island. His wife, Linda, a real estate agent, and first cousin, Stephen Lefkowitz, a Manhattan real estate lawyer, signed as guarantors.
The committee received the first complaint against Schlesinger in September 2014 but refused to take any action. The body cited confidentiality laws with regards to the procedure of looking into misconduct by lawyers.
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