What You Should Know A former New Jersey native has been jailed for stealing more than half a million dollars in settlement funds from two dozen of his Brooklyn clients and nearly $100,000 in COVID-19 relief funds, local prosecutors said. Raleigh Douglas Herbert, 61, of Chatham was sentenced Wednesday to one to three years in prison, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said. Herbert pleaded guilty to second and third degree grand larceny and first degree fraud scheme on December 16, 2022. New York City personal injury cases embezzled approximately $493,000 from 16 of his Brooklyn clients by depositing negotiated settlement checks into his attorney escrow account .
A former New Jersey native has been jailed for stealing more than half a million dollars in settlement funds from two dozen of his Brooklyn clients and nearly $100,000 in COVID-19 relief funds, local prosecutors said.
Raleigh Douglas Herbert, 61, of Chatham, was sentenced Wednesday to one to three years in prison, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said. Herbert pleaded guilty on December 16, 2022 to second- and third-degree grand larceny and first-degree fraud scheme.
According to Gonzalez, citing evidence, Herbert, who handled wrongful arrest and personal injury cases against New York City from 2015 to 2021, said he embezzled about $493,000 from 16 of his Brooklyn clients by depositing checks from negotiated settlements with his attorney .
To cover up these thefts, Herbert lied to his customers about why they didn’t receive the money, including blaming them for court closures related to COVID-19 or claiming that the victims had liens that prevented him from paying them , although no such liens existed.
In addition, Herbert stole approximately $96,000 by submitting fraudulent loan applications through the US Small Business Administration’s COVID-19 Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
Herbert was arrested on February 1, 2022 and again on May 2, 2022 on two separate charges that were later combined. Herbert was subsequently arrested for a third time on December 7, 2022 on a criminal complaint alleging he stole approximately $77,000 from eight other customers who came forward after his second arrest.
Herbert was subsequently suspended from practice in New York State in March 2021, but continued to represent a client in a wrongful death case against the New York City Police Department — without telling his client — who was due to receive a $750,000 settlement — had been suspended to say.
Herbert was subsequently stripped of his bar association in June 2022.
According to the district attorney, the embezzled funds were used for various personal expenses and unrelated debts.
“This defendant has repeatedly broken his oath and betrayed his clients’ trust by pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlement funds and COVID-19 relief funds to which he was not entitled. Criminal behavior in the legal profession is unacceptable and today’s ruling sends a strong message that it will be vigorously pursued,” Gonzalez said in a statement.
The New York State Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection has reimbursed a total of approximately $470,000 to 16 of the defendant’s victims, according to prosecutors.
“Theft of client funds is not just a crime, it is a serious breach of trust in attorneys. On behalf of the more than 351,000 members of the New York legal profession, the Lawyers’ Fund seeks to restore that trust by restoring financial resources to damages caused by the statistically few in our profession who cause such losses,” said Michael J. Knight, Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection.