Lawyer at center of pension probe must pay back $83,624

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Lawrence Reich, the private attorney who was reported as a full-time employee of five school districts at the same time, must pay back $83,624 to the state for receiving a pension to which he was not entitled, the New York State comptroller's office said yesterday.

Reich's attorney, Peter Tomao of Garden City, said Reich was deciding whether to appeal the decision.

"We are disappointed that the comptroller is taking this position, and we are reviewing our options," he said, adding, "Mr. Reich has always maintained that he acted completely within the law."

Newsday reported in February on Reich's employment arrangement, which enabled him to earn a pension of nearly $62,000 a year and health benefits for life. Records show that at the same time he was reported as an employee, the school districts paid his law firm, Ingerman & Smith, more than $2.5 million in legal fees.

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The story sparked investigations by the New York State attorney general, Internal Revenue Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Nassau district attorney. In addition, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli launched a review of all attorneys in the state pension system.

In March, DiNapoli ruled that Reich was not entitled to the pension. On Tuesday, the office said Reich was entitled to a pension of $4,575 a year because he had worked for the state Education Department from 1966 to 1978. The comptroller's office also revoked pension memberships or rescinded the pension credits of five other attorneys, three from an East Syracuse law firm and two from a Queens law firm. The law firms previously reached settlements with the state attorney general's office.

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