A.G. Schneiderman Announces Arrest Of Lawyer Charged With Stealing From Clients To Fund Lavish Lifestyle
Bronxville Attorney Allegedly Used Clients’ Escrow Money For Country Club Membership And Luxury Vehicles; Stole From Staten Island Cemetery To Cover Tracks
Schneiderman: Attorney-Client Privilege Does Not Give Lawyers The Right To Steal From Clients
Yesterday, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced the arrest of Timothy Griffin, a Westchester real-estate attorney, for allegedly stealing from his own clients’ escrow account and using the money to help fund his family’s extravagant lifestyle. The Attorney General's investigation revealed that Griffin, who lives in Ridgefield, CT and practices in Bronxville, stole more than $1 million money from clients between April 2009 and February 2014, according to the criminal complaint and information made public at arraignment.
As a real-estate attorney, Griffin’s clients would give him money to be held in escrow for pending transactions. Instead of keeping the money in escrow, as required by law, Griffin allegedly transferred it to his personal bank account and then used that money to make payments on: a membership at Westchester’s Waccabuc Country Club, a BMW, a Lexus, expensive jewelry and other personal expenses.
“Attorney-client privilege does not give lawyers the right to steal from clients in order to fund their own lavish lifestyle,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Clients must be able to trust their attorneys and abusing that trust is both unethical and illegal. Today’s arrest sends the message that there must be one set of rules for everyone.”
These charges came to light following the Attorney General’s investigation into the theft of nearly $2 million from the not-for-profit United Hebrew Cemetery in Staten Island. In late 2012, Griffin was asked to serve as the Acting President of the Cemetery after the previous president and his wife were found guilty of embezzling approximately $850,000 (which was also an investigation conducted by the Attorney General’s office). In his capacity as Acting President, Griffin allegedly made six unauthorized wire transfers from the cemetery’s account to his own attorney escrow account totaling $1.9 million. (He was indicted earlier this year for felony Grand Larceny in that case.)
Investigators with the Attorney General’s Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau believe that Griffin stole from the cemetery in order to reimburse the escrow account from which he’d been stealing his clients’ money for years.
Griffin was charged yesterday with seven counts of felony Grand Larceny. He was arraigned this morning in New Rochelle before the Honorable Susan Kettner. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison on today’s charges in Westchester County. (He also faces up to 25 years in prison on the previous indictment.)
The charges against the defendant are allegations and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
The Attorney General's Office thanks the New York State Department of State, Division of Cemeteries, for their valuable assistance in this case.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Chin-Ho Cheng, with the assistance of Supervising Legal Analyst Paul Strocko of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau. The Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Gary T. Fishman and Deputy Bureau Chief Stephanie Swenton. The Attorney General's Criminal Justice Division is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General Kelly Donovan.
The investigation was handled by Investigators Sixto Santiago and Ryan Fannon, Supervising Investigator Luis Carter and Deputy Chief of Investigations Vito Spano. Also assisting in the investigation were Supervising Auditor Edward J. Keegan and Associate Auditor Matthew Croghan. The Investigations Division is led by Chief Dominick Zarrella.