According to the Nassau County District Attorney's office, Robert Alan Wagner, age 63 of Bellmore was "charged with stealing more than $400,000 in estate funds" that he held in escrow for an Executrix of an Estate that he represented in the sale of real estate. In December 2013 the deceased woman's house was sold for $450,000 and after payment of expenses, the attorney presumably deposited the balance in an escrow account - which was to be used to pay the Estate's expenses and to distribute the balance to the heirs of the Estate.
Many calls were made by the beneficiaries to attorney Wagner seeking payment. The attorney allegedly deceived his clients and stalled matters with multiple excuses. No payments were made to the heirs and it is believed the attorney spent the money.
Lessons learned? Be aware that there is no law requiring attorneys in New York to carry legal malpractice insurance, which only provides coverage for negligent acts--not an intentional theft. Frequently, the attorneys who steal from their clients, have little if any way to pay it back. Many have had alcohol, drug and/or gambling problems. Worse they have lost, or will soon lose their ability to continue working as an attorney. For those who have been victimized by a dishonest attorney you should contact the Lawyer's Fund for Client Protection which provides some reimbursement. You can visit their website at nylawfund.org