News Column

Disbarred Buffalo lawyer admits embezzling $207,000 from escrow account

August 14, 2014

By James Staas, The Buffalo News, N.Y.



Aug. 14--A disbarred Buffalo attorney Thursday admitted embezzling more than $207,000 from an escrow account that his client would receive if and when lawsuits involving the client were resolved.

David S. Widenor, 45, of Linwood Avenue, spent the money on family trips to Disney World and paying off personal loans instead of holding the escrow money pending resolution of the suits, according to Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III.

Widenor pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny. He could face a maximum prison term of five to 15 years when sentenced Sept. 18 by County Judge Michael F. Pietruszka.

Widenor previously pleaded guilty to embezzling $18,550 from an escrow account for another client.

The judge, who had released Widenor without bail in the previous embezzlement case, allowed him to remain free without bail in the most recent case.

Although Widenor now faces sentencing on two felony convictions, restitution is an important part of the cases, Assistant District Attorney Brian P. Dassero told the judge.

The prosecutor said it would be difficult for Widenor to make restitution if he were incarcerated between now and sentencing, and he asked the judge to allow the disbarred lawyer to remain free without bail.

The judge agreed, adding that he hoped Widenor could address the restitution matter before he sentences him.

Widenor admitted that he stole $207,451 from the Hogan Willig law firm, which had given him the money on behalf of its client Feb. 20, 2009. The money was to be placed in Widenor's escrow account for his client, pending resolution of the lawsuits involving his client. Widenor spent the money over the next three years.

Widenor, whose law office was on Elmwood Avenue, also faces sentencing Sept. 18 on his April 15 guilty plea to third-degree grand larceny for taking $18,550 from an escrow account for another client.

At the time of that plea, Dassero said Widenor used the money for personal expenses, including paying for his children's education, between April 1, 2013, and Oct. 31, 2013.

He said Widenor represented a foreign company, Electrolink Systems, in a breach-of-contract lawsuit he filed in Buffalo federal court on its behalf against a local firm, VOCAL Technologies Ltd.

Under a proposed settlement, Dassero said, VOCAL Technologies sent $22,500 in good-faith money to Widenor to hold for his client until his client signed off on the settlement. The rest of the settlement amount was to be paid once the settlement was finalized.

But because the settlement agreement was never signed, and the funds were never forwarded to Widenor's client, the money was still the property of VOCAL Technologies, Dassero said.

email: jstaas@buffnews.com

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Source: Buffalo News (NY)


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