The Business Litigation Blog

Lawyer Steals From Clients and His Own Mom

A Virginia-based attorney, named Michael Lawrence Eisner, has admitted to defrauding his employer, clients, his wife, and even his mother in a fraudulent check scheme that brought in over $4.8 million.  Eisner managed a law firm in Northern Virginia that specialized in bankruptcies.  Unfortunately, it appears that he took advantage of clients who had trusted him to help them and were in a vulnerable position due to their financial situation.

Eisner tricked law firms into depositing checks that were purportedly for client settlements, but were in fact fake.  Once the checks were deposited, he then made withdrawals against the accounts that were set up on behalf of unwitting clients who had no knowledge of his scheme.  

He has admitted to running a bad check scheme against several banks and competing law firms.  He also misused credit cards by making false payments on credit card bills from bank accounts that he knew contained insufficient funds to pay the credit card bills.  This type of scheme is called credit card “kiting.”  One such credit card account was owned by his wife and another account was owned by his mother. Neither of them knew about Eisner’s criminal scheme.  The credit card scheme alone racked up half-a-million dollars in unpaid credit card bills.  

In the third prong of his ill-fated illegal scheme, Eisner persuaded bankruptcy clients to liquidate their assets and pay the cash to Eisner. Eisner had told them that he was going to use the money to pay their creditors.  However, he spent hundreds of thousands of client money on his own spending spree rather than paying creditors as he promised.

Violation of Ethical Rules

Basic legal ethics for attorneys dictate that they judiciously manage their clients’ funds and serve their clients’ interests.  It is an ethical violation to commingle a client’s funds from a settlement with your own money, even if it is accidental or innocent of any malicious intent. However, to intentionally steal money from clients or commit identity theft in the process of enriching oneself at the expense of clients is not only unethical, it is illegal, as well.

Client funds are to be stored in separate accounts that are carefully monitored and can only be drawn from for appropriate expenses or for authorized settlements or similar purposes on behalf of the client.  A lawyer cannot mix his own money or invest the client’s money in risky ventures to make the lawyer money that could risk the client’s principal sum.  

Loss of License and Prison Time

Eisner lost his Virginia law license for participating in a fraud scheme.  He also may face up to twenty years in Federal prison when he is sentenced. As he has already admitted to committing the fraudulent activities that he was accused of; therefore, the U.S. Attorney does not need to go to trial against him.

For Additional Questions About Legal Malpractice, Contact Knowledgeable Attorneys

If you have more questions about legal malpractice or lawyer ethics, call or email the attorneys at the Patterson Law Firm for guidance. 

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