on May 29, 2013 - 4:25 PM
A real estate lawyer Wednesday admitted stealing $339,488 from four clients, with some of the thefts starting as far back as 2006.
Thomas J. Wojciechowski, 67, appeared in Erie County Court and pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree grand larceny, two counts of third-degree grand larceny and one count of fourth-degree criminal tax fraud.
Wojciechowski, who told the court he lives on Old Farm Road, Orchard Park, had been a partner and head of the Bouvier Partnership LLP’s general practice section, but he was expelled from the partnership when partners learned of the misconduct.
One of the victims has been reimbursed the amount of money that prosecutors could prove was stolen from him, said John C. Doscher, head of the Erie County District Attorney’s Special Investigations Bureau, who prosecutes embezzlers and others accused of financial crimes.
Another victim has been reimbursed $9,000 of the nearly $13,000 stolen from him.
Another victim, who lost $78,000, and an estate, which was cheated out of some $6,000, have not been repaid.
“This plea covers these four instances,” Doscher told Judge Thomas P. Franczyk.
Authorities looked at records to see whether more people were victimized, Doscher said.
“These are the only four we found,” he said.
Wojciechowski stole the money from client trust accounts with the firm, generally by making out checks in the victims’ names but then cashing the checks himself, Doscher said.
Wojciechowski admitted stealing $242,429 from Donald L. Miller, 71, of Lake View, who had the most stolen from among the four victims.
Miller last year filed suit in State Supreme Court, alleging that Wojciechowski, his longtime friend, defrauded him out of more than $368,000, according to court records.
The Bouvier firm learned of Wojciechowski’s alleged conduct after being contacted by Miller in August, an attorney representing the firm said last year.
Miller’s complaint led to a criminal investigation, Doscher said.
After the civil suit was filed, Wojciechowski quit as acting part-time Blasdell village justice.
According to the civil suit, between Oct. 1, 2003, and Aug. 31, 2012, Miller delivered $513,000 in checks to the Bouvier Partnership for deposit by the firm into his client trust account.
Wojciechowski allegedly told Miller he would invest the money to buy mortgages where mortgagors agreed to pay Miller principal and interest.
Miller was reimbursed about $400,000 by the firm’s insurance carrier – which included interest – but after paying legal fees to another lawyer hired to handle the matter, Miller has lost about $9,000, Doscher said.
Wojciechowski also admitted that he evaded state income tax by failing to report the money to the state. He did not file a return for his 2011 income, said Assistant District Attorney Gary M. Ertel.
“Having embezzled from his clients, having chiseled his partners and having cheated on his taxes, Mr. Wojciechowski now stands before the bar as a convicted felon,” District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III said in a statement.
The district attorney thanked the Bouvier Partnership and Lawrence J. Vilardo, an attorney who represented the firm, for cooperating in the investigation.
Wojciechowski could face 16 to 48 years in prison when sentenced Aug. 23.
Franczyk, however, said he is inclined to have any prison sentences for the five offenses to be served concurrently.
The judge also said that if he imposes any prison time for Wojciechowski, it would likely be on the lower end of the sentencing range.
Wojciechowski remains free on his own recognizance.