Disbarred Lawyer Sentenced to 1 to 3 Years in Prison for Embezzling Approximately $575,000 from Brooklyn Clients


Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Disbarred Lawyer Sentenced to 1 to 3 Years in Prison for
Embezzling Approximately $575,000 from Brooklyn Clients

Defendant Also Stole Approximately $96,000 in COVID-19 Relief Funds

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a former attorney from New Jersey has been sentenced to one to three years in prison for stealing approximately $575,000 in settlement funds from two dozen of his clients in Brooklyn as well as approximately $96,000 in COVID-19 relief funds. The defendant, who has since been disbarred, pleaded guilty to second- and third-degree grand larceny in December 2022.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant repeatedly violated his oath as an attorney and betrayed the trust of his clients by pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlement money and COVID-19 relief funds to which he was not entitled. Criminal conduct in the legal profession is unacceptable, and today’s sentence sends a strong message that it will be prosecuted vigorously by my Office. I would like to thank the Lawyers’ Fund for reimbursing the victims in this case and for the work it does to restore trust.”

Michael J. Knight, Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection said: “The theft of law client money is not only a crime, but a profound violation of the trust placed in lawyers. On behalf of the over 351,000 members of New York’s legal profession, the Lawyers’ Fund strives to restore that trust by reimbursing the financial harm caused by the statistically few in our profession who cause such losses. The New York Lawyers’ Fund is tremendously grateful to the Kings County District Attorney’s office for its invaluable assistance to our Fund in making meaningful restitution to the victimized law clients of Mr. Herbert.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Raleigh Douglas Herbert, 61, of Chatham, New Jersey. He was sentenced today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun to one to three years in prison. The defendant pleaded guilty to second- and third-degree grand larceny as well as first-degree scheme to defraud on December 16, 2022.

The District Attorney said that, according to the evidence, from 2015 to 2021, the defendant, who handled wrongful arrests and personal injury cases against New York City, embezzled approximately $493,000 from 16 of his clients in Brooklyn by depositing checks received from negotiated settlements into his attorney escrow account.

To conceal these thefts, the defendant lied to his clients about why they did not receive the money, which included blaming COVID-19 related court closures or claiming that the victims had liens that prevented him from paying them when no such liens existed. The defendant spent much of the embezzled funds on various personal expenses and unrelated debts.

Furthermore, according to the evidence, the defendant stole approximately $96,000 by filing fraudulent loan applications through the COVID-19 Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) run by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The defendant was arrested on February 1, 2022, and again on May 2, 2022, under two separate indictments which were then combined. The defendant was arrested for a third time, on December 7, 2022, on a felony complaint charging him with stealing approximately $77,000 from eight additional clients who came forward following his second arrest.

The defendant was suspended from practicing law in New York State in March 2021, but continued to represent a client in a wrongful death lawsuit against the New York City Police Department. The defendant did not tell the client – who was set to receive a $750,000 settlement – he had been suspended.

The defendant was disbarred in June 2022.

To date, the Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection of the State of New York has reimbursed a total of approximately $470,000 to 16 of the defendant’s victims.

The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Jake A. Nasar of the District Attorney’s Organized Crime and Racketeering Bureau and Assistant District Attorney Adam Libove, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Laura Neubauer, Chief of the Public Integrity Bureau, and Assistant District Attorney Christopher Blank, Chief of the Organized Crime and Racketeering Bureau, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Michel Spanakos, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division and Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Chief of the Investigations Division.