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DA: Lawyer who stole client settlements sentenced

A personal injury lawyer from Manhasset who stole almost $400,000 from clients' settlements was sentenced Thursday to up to 7 years in state prison, the Manhattan district attorney's office said.

John Ioannou, 58, had also fraudulently negotiated at least one settlement and pocketed awards without letting clients know they had won, prosecutors said.

He was sentenced to 21/3 to 7 years, having pleaded guilty in July to several charges, including grand larceny, insurance fraud and identity theft. He confessed to stealing $395,600 from his victims.

"In one case, the defendant went so far as to embezzle money from the account of an infant whose father was killed in a car accident -- funds that were meant to go towards the child's future education," Manhattan DA Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said in a news release.

Ioannou's attorney, Steven Fusfeld of Manhattan, did not immediately return a call for comment Thursday afternoon.

State officials had suspended Ioannou's license in 2011, after censuring or admonishing him three times since 2003, Vance said.

He had more complaints filed against him in Manhattan and the Bronx than any other attorney or law firm in the past 40 years, Vance's office said a court disciplinary committee had found.

Vance said the attorney had violated his legal oath by "revictimizing" people, including several with debilitating physical injuries.

Under the scheme, which started in 2007, Ioannou would take sole receipt of his clients' awards. In one case, he took the entire $100,000 settlement from a single mother who was driving when she was broadsided. In another case, he claimed to represent a dialysis patient who was injured in the van that took her to treatments, and after forging her signature on documents, he stole the insurance funds.

The thefts were documented by forensic accounting and financial investigators in Vance's office.

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