White-Collar Crime

Victims in $6M client-theft case to get $3.25M; accused lawyer may not be competent for trial

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A 78-year-old lawyer may not be competent to stand trial in a federal mail-fraud case over some $6 million in claimed client thefts. However, 47 claimants who say they were targets of the alleged scheme by attorney Anthony J. Lupas of Wilkes-Barre will get $3.25 million from a victim compensation fund established by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 1982.

“The Lupas matter is one of the most egregious cases of attorney theft of clients’ escrow funds that I have seen in the 20 years that I have been on the Supreme Court,” said Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille in a written statement made public on Wednesday. “Unfortunately, it appears that the client security fund will not be able to recoup the funds from attorney Lupas himself. Fortunately, the security fund, which is funded through Pennsylvania’s attorney registration fees, has sufficient reserves to cover claims up to $100,000 per claimant. Most of Lupas’ clients will receive coverage of the loss of their principal, but others will still feel the sting of Lupas’ criminal conduct.”

Authorities said Lupas promised victims that he would use their money to establish trusts, but there is no evidence he actually did so, according to the Citizens Voice, the Pennsylvania Record and the Times Leader. A former longtime solicitor for the Wilkes-Barre Area School Board, he is also the father of a Luzerne County judge.

The claimed $6 million scheme reportedly unraveled after Lupas injured himself in a fall in 2011 and was unable to keep up with the payments.

Attorneys William Ruzzo and Joseph Blazosek represent Lupas. They did not respond to requests for comments Wednesday, a later Citizens Voice article says.

In addition to the freeze on federal criminal proceedings resulting from what Lupas’ lawyers describe as symptoms of advanced Alzheimer’s disease, including hallucinations and delusions, civil cases against him have also been delayed for the same reason, attorney Ernie Preate, who represents about 10 claimants, told the Times Leader.

Awards from the compensation fund cannot be used to pay attorney fees, only costs, he noted.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Lawyer Reportedly Probed in Alleged Ponzi Scheme After His Son, a Judge, Reports His Suspicions”

ABAJournal.com: “Pa. Lawyer Is Charged with Mail Fraud in Alleged Ponzi Scheme”

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