In-House Counsel to the Mob? Court Denies Government's Motion to Disqualify Attorney Joseph Corozzo, Jr.

As reported by the New York Law Journal, Michael Scarpaci is current charged as an alleged associate of the Gambino crime organization in the Southern District of New York in an indictment charging racketeering violations, including murder, witness tampering, murder of a witness, extortion, narcotics and sex trafficking a minor. In a twist, however, Scarpaci's lawyer, Joseph R. Corozzo, Jr., is also alleged to have connections to the Gambino family, and the prosecution sought to disqualify Corozzo from the case for alleged conflicts of interest. Specifically, Corozzo's father, Joseph Corozzo Sr., is a consigliere of the Gambino family. His uncle, Nicholas Corozzo, is a capo. And Corozzo himself is alleged to serve as the organization's "in house counsel."

Prosecutors moved to disqualify Corozzo from representing Scarpaci, citing Corozzo's disqualification in April from representing Gaetano Napoli, Sr., on the ground that Corozzo had been present at two meetings with his client in 2009 in which they discussed what to do if Napoli was ever approached by law enforcement. Corozzo had advised Napoli to say nothing and give investigators the number for his attorney. Sound advice from a criminal defense attorney--which the government of course alleged constituted obstruction of justice.

Prosecutors also cited a 2006 recorded conversation in which Scarpaci's co-defendant, Daniel Marino, and an alleged Gambino associate, Lewis Kasman, discussed the possibility of Corozzo being arrested and disbarred, arguing that the conversation implicated Corozzo in the racketeering conspiracy charged in the indictment. Finally, the government contended that Corozzo had previously represented a witness for the government in the case.

District Judge Lewis Kaplan denied the government's motion, holding that the government had not identified any actual conflict from Corozzo's representation of Scarpaci, and noted that Scarpaci could make a knowing and intelligent waiver of any potential conflicts. The Judge found that the alleged conflict in the Napoli case was not related to the case against Scarpaci, and that the Court in that case never made any finding that Corozzo's alleged conduct obstructed justice. Judge Kaplan also observed that the conversation between Marino and Kasman did not suggest that Corozzo had engaged in any criminal conduct. The Court further noted that the subject matter of Corozzo's representation of the government witness, and was only "tangentially related" to the subject matter of the case. Finally, regarding Corozzo's family connections with the Gambino family, the Court held that there was no evidence that Corozzo's father or uncle had had in any way supervised any of the RICO acts allegedly committed by Scarpaci.

Forensic Accountant Lewis Freeman Indicted for Alleged Misappropriation of $6 Million in Funds from Fiduciary Accounts

As reported in the South Florida Business Journal, Lewis B. Freeman, one of the best-known forensic accountants in South Florida was indicted yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida on charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Freeman is alleged to have misappropriated funds from fiduciary accounts from 2000 through 2009 by writing checks to himself and his firm, Lewis B. Freeman & Partners, and depositing the funds into the firm's operating account. Freeman is alleged to have misappropriated some $6 million in funds by writing approximately 162 unauthorized checks and using the proceeds to support a lavish lifestyle.

Freeman put his firm into receivership last fall during the federal criminal investigation. The firm previously did millions of dollars in business. The government alleges that out of the $6 million misappropriated, some $2.6 million of clients' monies were lost. Freeman, oddly, worked routinely as an expert for the court in liquidating the assets of companies. According to Freeman's counsel, he turned himself in and is cooperating with authorities. His counsel have stated that he made "serious mistakes," and will "accept the consequences for his actions.”