Two recently disbarred Long Island lawyers were charged with stealing more than $7 million from 29 of their clients over the past nine years, sometimes using one individual’s settlement to pay another’s, the Queens district attorney said Thursday.
The accusations follow an investigation in which former clients and employees were interviewed, and bank records went through detailed reviews, Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said in a statement.
The probe revealed numerous instances of the lawyers — Mitchell Lenchner, 60, of Great Neck, and Corey Kaye, 60, of Seaford — spending their clients’ settlements on payroll, business and personal expenses, Brown said. At times, they used settlement money to pay clients whose funds they had spent, he said.
“The defendants in this case are accused of not only breaching their fiduciary duty and unjustly enriching themselves at the expense of their clients, but [they] also allegedly collected settlements on behalf of their clients, then disbursed funds to other clients whose escrow accounts had already been depleted by the pair,” Brown said.
Lenchner and Kaye deposited settlement checks for amounts ranging from $5,400 to $2.275 million between April 2010 and May 2018, Brown said.
Around Sept. 13, 2011, for example, they deposited a $2.275 million settlement for a client who was the executor of a family member’s estate.
That individual never received the money she was owed, Brown said. By June 29, 2012, he said, the escrow’s balance had fallen “well under” the $1 million she should have been paid.
Similarly, around May 15, 2014, their now closed Mineola-based law firm of Kaye & Lenchner received $575,000 in checks for a client, who was the executor of a family member’s estate. This client also did not receive the money he was owed, and within two months, the escrow account had less than $50,000.
The two defendants were charged in criminal complaints with multiple counts of grand larceny and one count of first-degree scheme to defraud.
They could be sentenced to a minimum 1 to 3 years up to a maximum of 8-1/3 to 25 years in prison, Brown said. Kaye’s lawyer was not immediately available. Lenchner’s attorney declined to comment.
The case was brought by the Queens district attorney at the request of Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas to avoid any “appearance of impropriety due to a conflict of interest,” Brown said.
Bail was set at $150,000 bond or $75,000 cash, and the two men were ordered to return to the Nassau County District Court on Friday.
Brown urged anyone who might be a victim or know someone who is to contact his office.