Criminal Justice

Former BigLaw partner accused of lying to bankruptcy court to keep pricey home, Aston Martin

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A former BigLaw lawyer who previously gave up his law license has been arrested for allegedly lying to a bankruptcy court about his ability to pay creditors.

Former lawyer John Roesser, 52, is accused of lying and submitting falsified records, so he could keep assets that included a multimillion-dollar residence and an Aston Martin Rapide sports car. He was arrested Tuesday in Bronxville, New York, according to a March 28 Department of Justice press release.

Roesser is charged with one count of falsifying records in bankruptcy and one count of false oaths in bankruptcy. The maximum sentence on the records charge is 20 years in prison, while the maximum for the oaths charge is five years in prison. He was released Tuesday on $250,000 bail, according to Law360.

Roesser was a partner at three BigLaw firms during a nearly five-year period ending in about January 2018, according to the press release. Reuters identifies those firms as Alston & Bird, Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, and Dechert. reports that Roesser was also a former partner at Seyfarth Shaw and Winston & Strawn. Law360 says he also worked at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.

Roesser owed more than $3 million to the Internal Revenue Service and others when he filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Manhattan, New York City, in February 2022, according to the indictment. The IRS said the total amount owed, including penalties and interest, was $3.8 million.

Roesser resigned from the New York bar in 2020 while he was being investigated for misappropriating nearly $100,000 in client funds, according to an August 2020 decision by the Appellate Division’s First Judicial Department of the New York State Supreme Court. He acknowledged that he couldn’t successfully defend against the allegations.

In the bankruptcy case, Roesser sought protection under Chapter 11, which allows a debtor to remain “in possession,” meaning that he can keep possession and control of his assets during the bankruptcy. The Chapter 11 debtor has to propose a viable plan of reorganization that is voted on by creditors.

Roesser allegedly told the bankruptcy court and the IRS that he would be receiving millions of dollars that would allow him to pay his debts while keeping his house. He later filed a false declaration and submitted falsified records indicating that he had received millions of dollars, prosecutors say. In reality, a bank account for a company that he owned “never had more than $200 in it,” and his debtor-in-possession account never had a positive balance, the indictment alleges.

The false statements were later withdrawn by Roesser’s bankruptcy lawyer, and the bankruptcy case was dismissed, prosecutors say.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in the press release Roesser allegedly “manipulated the bankruptcy system” to keep his assets and avoid paying his bills.

“And he should have known better—he used to be a lawyer,” Williams said.

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