Court-Appointed NY Lawyer Accused of Stealing $4M from Clients
A Brooklyn lawyer appointed by New York judges as a guardian overseeing the assets of elderly and incapacitated clients allegedly siphoned away $4 million for his own personal use from as much as $30 million in settlements and other funds.
“Steven Rondos, 44, and his law firm, Raia & Rondos, are charged with money laundering, grand larceny and scheming to defraud,” reports Reuters. “He is accused of defrauding 23 incapacitated clients plus the estate of one dead person.”
Rondos “is accused of chiseling away at the loot so he could fancy up his $1.4 million home in Ridgewood, N.J.—landscaping, renovating his kitchen, and even installing his own home theater,” recounts the New York Post. He also allegedly used some of the money for mortgage payments.
He formerly served as vice president of the New York State Bar Association’s guardianship committee, the Post article notes.
The alleged situation does not reflect favorably on court monitoring of the guardianships involved, admits Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, who called for the monitoring system to be overhauled. He says the guardianships were monitored by court-appointed examiners, but they were lawyers rather than accountants and somehow missed the claimed fraud, the Post reports.
Attorney David Frankel, who represents Rondos, did not immediately respond to a request for comment, reports the Associated Press.
The state also is suing Rondos and his wife and law partner, Camille Raia, seeking asset forfeiture of $4.72 million, according to Reuters and the AP, although she is not criminally charged.
“Morgenthau’s chief deputy, Daniel Castleman, said some victims lost a large percentage of their money but none lost all of it,” the AP writes.