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Law And Disorder: Lawyers Get Notoriety For White Collar Crimes

Submitted by MiaB

I’m sure you’ve seen the same houses I have here along “The Isle” and wonder how anybody can afford not only the cost, but the taxes and the maintenance fees, especially here on Long Island where the cost of living is known to be exorbitant. And, like me, and many others you’ve probably chalked it up to inherited money, good career choices at the right time and have decided that these folks are either doctors or lawyers.

Well, officials confirmed at least part of our “suspicions” and it doesn’t do much to help the stereotypical perception of lawyers.

In fact, it seems like Long Island lawyers have the notorious reputation of being unscrupulous and living large on OUR hard earned money. And, it’s a story law enforcement officials say is common among these “white collar criminals” who’ve build a nice nest egg by, among other means, pocking the escrow money of their clients.

Officials suggest that the lure of “easy money” resulting from the authority to handle an abundance of real estate deals, which are generally unsupervised (since most lawyers work for themselves) compiled with a lavish lifestyle they’ve gotten use to, makes the pattern more palatable to these professionals.

In fact, it’s suggested that in just the last 25 years, local lawyers can be held accountable for an estimated $31 million in theft (Luckily about one 25 % has been reimbursed through government agencies protecting victims of such fraud), and they account for 19 percent of attorneys who’ve been caught stealing statewide. Luckily about one 25 % has been reimbursed through government agencies protecting victims of such fraud. Furthermore, because local registered attorneys count for 13 percent of those who reside statewide, the statistics suggest that means Long Island lawyers steal much more (in comparison to their peers).

Taking the controversy even further is the fact that over recent years, the numbers of fraudulent attorneys has increased and the Lawyers Fund for client Protection has started increasing the pressure on local bar association to seek out a viable solution.

However, there has been extreme resistance from Long Island lawyers who suggest that the numbers make our area (un-necessarily) seem like a hotbed of illegal activity and corruption. They add that the numbers may give that picture since Long Island has more lawyers than other areas, most of them self-employed or working for small firms where skimming money is more likely to happen. Additionally, they comment that our local area is home to many real estate transactions, high ticket ones, in fact, and that’s where most of the fraud is found. Plus, they suggest that upstate escrow funds are frequently handled by title companies rather than lawyers, and that does little to reduce escrow theft.

Finally, they assert that giving local lawyers such a stigmas is “cruel” and un-necessary; adding that those taken advantage of by other professionals are rarely if ever reimbursed.

Still, there are a host of measures that attempt to prevent lawyers for stealing. Among these, local lawyer grievance committees that are notified in the case of an escrow account being overdrawn. Also, when insurance companies forward settlement checks to attorneys, they are mandated to send a notice to the client informing them of the transaction and alerting them to be on the “lookout” for the money. And, last, but not least, attorney grievance committees can arbitrarily audit accounts in New York though it’s not perhaps as common as it possibly should be.

“Prohibition” is also enforced via a class taught at Touro Law Center focusing on legal ethics and how to steer clear of professional temptations. Pus, local bar association leaders support via prosecution better education and other preventative methods. However, they remain staunch on their position about allowing lawyers to handle escrow, a topic likely to be revisited in the near future, especially if the problem doesn’t get any better.

Local News > Law And Disorder: Lawyers Get Notoriety For White Collar Crimes

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