Fugitive LI lawyer arrested in Wyoming

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A Huntington lawyer who prosecutors contend stole more than $200,000 from his clients and then fled got caught earlier this month when Wyoming State Police picked him up for hitchhiking, officials said Friday.

Edward Christensen, 61, who had a law office in Oyster Bay, pleaded not guilty Thursday to second-degree grand larceny and first-degree scheme to defraud during his arraignment in Nassau Court in Mineola. He is being held on $100,000 bond or $50,000 cash. He is due in court again Nov. 9.

If convicted, Christensen could face a maximum of 5 to 15 years in prison.

"We're in the process of investigating," said his lawyer, Meredith Bettenhauser, of Garden City. "I think we'll reach a favorable resolution in the case."

Prosecutors said from about January 2008 to October 2008, Christensen stole $211,000 from his clients' escrow accounts by transferring money into his business account or by making cash withdrawals. He used the cash for personal expenses, utility bills and rent, prosecutors said.

On Oct. 17, 2008, Christensen disappeared. His wife, from whom he was separated, filed a missing persons report with the Suffolk County district attorney's office, prosecutors said.

A Nassau grand jury indicted Christensen on Oct. 20, 2009, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

After Wyoming State Police picked him up in Laramie County earlier this month, he was extradited to Nassau County and arraigned.

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