Judge refuses to block forfeiture of retirement account of former BigLaw partner
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A former Hunton & Williams partner who was convicted in a $1.9 million fraudulent real estate scheme will lose his law firm retirement account to the federal government as a result of a federal judge’s ruling last week.
In a Feb. 16 decision, U.S. District Judge Dennis Saylor of the District of Massachusetts in Boston granted the government’s motion for summary judgment in the forfeiture action involving Scott Wolas, a former partner at the law firm now known as Hunton Andrews Kurth.
Saylor rejected a claim to the account by Wolas’ ex-wife, Cecily Sturge, after holding that an attempt to transfer the money to her was fraudulent.
Wolas had been a partner at Hunton & Williams from 1985 to 1995. The retirement account held more than $788,000 as of September 2019.
Wolas was sentenced in January 2019 to 81 months in prison for collecting money from at least 24 real estate investors, then disappearing with the money. Wolas was on the lam and using a fake identity at the time of the crime, which followed his 1997 indictment in an alleged $100 million Ponzi scheme.
Sturge had remained in contact with Wolas while he was a fugitive, Saylor said. She obtained a divorce in Florida in 2001, and a court declared Wolas dead in 2011.
Initially, the retirement account was not brought to the attention of the divorce court. Later, with Wolas’ help, Sturge sought to petition the Florida court to transfer the account to her, falsely stating that she did not know Wolas’ whereabouts, and she had no contact with him since 1995, Saylor said.
The Florida court transferred the account to Sturge a month after Wolas was arrested in April 2017, but a restraining order by the Boston court prevented the transfer of the assets. When Wolas pleaded guilty, he had agreed to forfeit all the funds in his retirement account.