White Collar Crime

Fired lawyer charged with stealing client fees from former firm

A New Jersey lawyer has been charged with misappropriating client fees intended for his former firm.

Darren P. Leotti, 48, is facing a theft charge for allegedly diverting client payments meant for the Somerset, N.J., firm Mauro, Savo, Camerino, Grant & Schalk to himself, the Newark Star-Ledger reports.

Leotti, who has been fired by the firm and temporarily suspended from practice, did not return the Star-Ledger’s call for comment. The firm declined comment.

According to a complaint filed Wednesday in Superior Court, Leotti allegedly stole the money over a 17-month period in 2011 and 2012 by having client fees deposited into his personal bank account rather than into the firm’s trust accounts. The complaint says that more than $500 were stolen; documents from an investigation by the state Office of Attorney Ethics claim that the amount was about $30,000.

Other claims of misconduct from that investigation are that Leotti also falsified several court documents and presented them to a client to mislead the client into believing a case was progressing; and lied to another client that their case had been dismissed, later removing documents from the firm’s files to conceal what he had done.

The ethics office’s petition to temporarily suspend him from practice was approved in April by the state supreme court.

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