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Long IslandCrime

DA: New Hyde Park law firm bill collector accused of ID theft

Robert Brust, 53, of Deer Park was arraigned

Robert Brust, 53, of Deer Park was arraigned on identity theft and fraud charges in Albany County Court on Wednesday, April 12, 2017, according to the Albany district attorney's office. Photo Credit: Albany County district attorney’s office

A bill collector for a New Hyde Park law firm stole the identities of 11 people who owed the firm’s clients money and then garnished their salaries, an indictment charges.

The firm of Gutman, Mintz, Baker & Sonnenfeldt then paid bonuses to bill collector Robert Brust, 53, of Deer Park, the Albany County district attorney said in a news release.

Brust pleaded not guilty Wednesday to an indictment charging him with identify theft and fraud and was released on his own recognizance, the news release from District Attorney P. David Soares said.

An outside attorney representing the firm, Michael Koblenz of Manhattan, said it had done nothing improper and that another employee of the firm, Mario Ali, was fired after he was charged criminally last year.

A spokeswoman for Soares confirmed that Ali had been arrested; he was indicted last August on fraud and identify theft charges and was free on $10,000 bail, she said.

“The firm is an innocent bystander here. Mr. Brust is an 18-year trusted employee. The firm supports him and believes the claims against him are without merit,” Koblenz said.

Between May 2015 and August 2016, Brust had an employee of the law firm call the state Department of Taxation and Finance or New York Health Exchange and pose as people who owed the firm money for representing them in landlord-tenant disputes, Soares said.

With information from the state in hand, the law firm would then file paperwork to garnish the debtor’s salary, Soares said.

The debtors were people who owed money to landlords represented by the firm in landlord-tenant disputes, prosecutors said.

The alleged scheme unraveled when state agencies “noticed a high volume of calls coming from the same individual,” the prosecutor said in the news release.

An attorney for Brust could not be reached.

CORRECTION: The 11 people whom a Mineola law firm, Gutman, Mintz, Baker & Sonnenfeldt, sought judgments against were tenants who owed money to landlords represented by the firm. A previous version of this story mischaracterized who the 11 people were.

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