White-Collar Crime

Lawyer accused in $6M client theft won't face criminal or civil trial; where money went is unknown

Due to his deteriorating mental faculties, a prominent Pennsylvania lawyer won’t face either a criminal trial or a civil trial concerning some $6 million he is accused of stealing from clients who trusted him in a Ponzi scheme.

Following an earlier ruling that 80-year-old Anthony J. Lupas is incompetent to stand trial, federal prosecutors on Monday asked a judge in Scranton to dismiss a fraud case against him, saying that he is unable to assist in his own defense and unlikely to improve, according to the Associated Press and the Times-Tribune.

For the same reason, a civil lawsuit against the longtime former Wilkes-Barre Area School Board solicitor can’t proceed either, a lawyer for a dozen claimed victims told the newspaper. “It’s over. The case is over. We can’t sue him civilly because he’s not competent,” attorney Ernie Preate said. “I’m not going to spend a ton of money to have him examined to be told the same thing the government said to the judge.”

Victims will be getting some $3.25 million from a fund maintained by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to compensate victims of attorney wrongdoing.

“The Lupas matter is one of the most egregious cases of attorney theft of clients’ escrow funds that I have seen in the 20 years that I have been on the Supreme Court,” Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille said in a written statement last year. “Unfortunately, it appears that the client security fund will not be able to recoup the funds from attorney Lupas himself. Fortunately, the security fund, which is funded through Pennsylvania’s attorney registration fees, has sufficient reserves to cover claims up to $100,000 per claimant. Most of Lupas’ clients will receive coverage of the loss of their principal, but others will still feel the sting of Lupas’ criminal conduct.”

Still unknown is where the money went. Lupas is accused of bilking clients of $6 million over an 18-year period. The alleged scheme was revealed after Lupas was injured in a fall in 2011 and was unable to keep up with payments to investors. Authorities say they were promised at least a 5 percent return.

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