Now in Legal Rebels:
Posted Oct 30, 2012 07:08 pm CDT
A former senior partner of a Buffalo, N.Y., law firm who has recently been working as a part-time town judge has been sued by a longtime friend who contends he was defrauded out of $368,000 he paid into a fraudulent mortgage investment scheme via a law firm client trust account.
Plaintiff Donald L. Miller, 71, alleges in the Erie County Supreme Court suit that attorney Thomas J. Wojciechowski, 66, repaid him only about $150,000 of the $513,000 in checks he made payable to the Bouvier Partnership, the Buffalo News reports.
The money was supposed to be used to purchase half a million dollars worth of mortgages on Miller’s behalf. But although Wojciechowski seemingly did so, mortgage documents he provided were fakes, on which the signatures of other clients who purportedly took out the mortgages were forged, according to what attorney Thomas Burton, who represents Miller, told the newspaper.
“All he got was some payments back disguised as interest from the phony mortgages,” said Burton of Miller. “In reality, it was just his own money coming back to him.”
The suit, which also names the law firm and at least one senior partner as defendants, seeks compensatory and punitive damages and attorney’s fees.
Alleging that only $423,000 of the $513,000 that Miller says he paid to the firm was actually deposited into a client trust account, it also contends that the law firm was negligent in its oversight of the money Miller paid into the firm’s trust account.
“The allegations are obviously very serious, and we take them very seriously,” said attorney Patrick J. Brown, who represents Wojciechowski. “He recognizes the gravity of the situation.”
Attorney Terrence M. Connors, who represents the Bouvier firm, told the newspaper that Wojciechowski was expelled by a vote of his fellow partners “as soon as they learned of the misconduct,” after the firm was contacted by Miller with concerns in August. However, Connors said, the firm itself did nothing wrong and is trying to help its clients resolve the situation as quickly as possible as partnership financial records are reviewed.
“We believe the firm was also a victim of the defalcation,” Connors said.
At least one real estate client of Wojciechowski’s allegedly was named as the purported beneficiary of small mortgage loans made with Miller’s money, the Buffalo News reports. However, the mortgages were never recorded and the client told the newspaper that his name was obviously forged.
Wojciechowski currently remains the assistant part-time justice in Blasdell, where he fills in when the full-time municipal judge isn’t available. The town mayor said he hasn’t served on the bench in some time, though, and told the newspaper “we are taking appropriate measures.”