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Disbarred Lawyer Sentenced to Prison for Embezzling Funds from Brooklyn Clients

A 61-year-old Chatham man is facing one to three years in prison after pleading guilty to grand larceny
NY Supreme Court, Brooklyn
New York Supreme Court, Brooklyn. Photo: Nigel Roberts for BK Reader.

A disbarred attorney will serve up to three years in prison after stealing more than half a million dollars from his Brooklyn clients.

“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,” said district attorney Eric Gonzalez.

Raleigh Douglas Herbert, 61, of Chatham was sentenced before Brooklyn Supreme Court justice Danny Chun to one to three years in prison on March 1. Herbert pleaded guilty to second- and third-degree grand larceny as well as first-degree scheme to defraud on Dec. 16, 2022.

“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,” Gonzalez said. 

According to the evidence, from 2015 to 2021, Herbert, 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.

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

The defendant was arrested on Feb. 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 Dec. 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.

"The theft of law client money is not only a crime, but a profound violation of the trust placed in lawyers,” Michael Knight, executive director of the Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection said. “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.”  

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.

“I would like to thank the Lawyers’ Fund for reimbursing the victims in this case and for the work it does to restore trust,” said Gonzalez. 

The following officials contributed to the prosecution of this case: 

  • Senior assistant district Attorney Jake Nasar of the District Attorney’s Organized Crime and Racketeering Bureau
  • Assistant district attorney Adam Libove, deputy chief of the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Bureau 
  • Assistant district attorney Laura Neubauer, chief of the Public Integrity Bureau
  • Assistant district attorney Christopher Blank, chief of the Organized Crime and Racketeering Bureau
  • Assistant district attorney Michel Spanakos, deputy chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division
  • Assistant district attorney Patricia McNeill, chief of the Investigations Division

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