Lawyer who once sought 'trial by combat' is accused of using blind client in scrap metal scheme
A Staten Island, New York, lawyer once in the news for seeking to resolve a civil case through “trial by combat” has been indicted in an alleged scheme to cheat scrap metal customers.
The lawyer, 38-year-old Richard Luthmann, is accused of contracting to sell scrap metal, then filling the containers with primarily cheap filler material, according to a press release and indictment. SILive.com covered the charges and prosecutors’ statements in court.
Federal prosecutors allege Luthmann “crossed the line from attorney to violent criminal and fraudster” in a scheme that included kidnapping and brandishing a firearm to collect a debt. Victims had wired over half a million dollars into accounts opened to facilitate the fraud, according to prosecutors.
Luthmann is accused of entering into the scrap metal scheme beginning in the summer of 2015 with a co-defendant, George Padula III, who had allegedly bragged of organized crime connections. Luthmann had hoped Padula could use those connections to settle any disputes with victims, prosecutors said.
Luthmann created fake companies to carry out the fraud and recruited a blind legal client to be the nominal president of one of the companies, prosecutors said.
An unnamed co-conspirator was called to Luthmann’s office in December 2016, where he was blocked from leaving and threatened with a gun by another defendant, Michael Beck, prosecutors said. The co-conspirator was told he owed Beck $10,000 because Beck had purchased a debt owed by the co-conspirator.
Throughout the alleged scheme, Luthmann referred to himself as “Saul” to his co-conspirators, a reference to the lawyer from Better Caul Saul, according to allegations recounted by SILive.com.
Prosecutors said in court last Friday that Luthmann is a danger to the community and a flight risk. He was being held without bail pending a bail hearing.
Luthmann, Padula and Beck were charged with kidnapping and kidnapping conspiracy, extortionate collection of credit, conspiracy to commit extortionate collection of credit, and brandishing a firearm during the commission of those crimes.
Luthmann and Padula were also charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering, money laundering conspiracy and aggravated identity theft.