A former Mineola attorney pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing up to $8.5 million from 30 clients over an eight-year period, prosecutors said Friday.
Mitchell Lenchner, 61, of Great Neck — who officials said was recently disbarred — pleaded guilty before Nassau County Court Judge Robert G. Bogle to first-degree grand larceny and first-degree scheme to defraud, said Queens Acting District Attorney John M. Ryan.
Lenchner, once partner in the now-defunct firm of Kaye and Lenchner on Mineola Boulevard, is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 27 and faces up to 9 years in prison and must pay back his victims.
“As a longtime lawyer, this defendant knew better,” said Ryan, who prosecuted the case at the request of Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas. “He ignored his fiduciary duty to enrich himself at the expense of his clients, and that client list is very long. He stole millions of dollars from trusting clients, who relied on him to work on behalf of their best interest. In pleading today, the defendant has admitted his guilt and will go to prison as a result of his criminal actions.”
Lenchner’s attorney, Jeffrey Pittell of Bayside, said his client is free on bail and will return to court on his sentencing date.
“By pleading guilty Mr. Lenchner accepts full responsibility for his actions,” Pittell said. “He is dedicated toward working hard to ensure the victims in this case recover their losses and are made whole.”
Prosecutors said Lenchner was part of a scheme that withheld payments from clients and used the funds for themselves.
Officials said the firm “deposited settlement checks intended for clients for sums between $5,400 and $2.275 million between April 2010 and May 2018.” Authorities added in the news release that “In one instance, a check for $2.275 million was deposited on or about September 13, 2011, into the firm’s account on behalf of a client who was the executrix of a family member’s estate. This client did not receive a portion of the settlement, which should have been more than $1 million.”
Other settlement checks were received by the firm but did not reach the clients for whom they were intended, prosecutors said, but “spent on business expenses, the law firm’s payroll, personal expenditures and sometimes payments were disbursed to previous clients whose escrow accounts had already been depleted by the defendant.”