Lawyer accused of ripping off elderly, kids

January 28, 2009 1:03:37 PM PST
A Brooklyn lawyer was charged with ripping off millions of dollars from two dozen so-called guardianship accounts, set up for victims of medical malpractice and personal injury cases. Authorities say 43-year-old Steven Rondos, who has an office in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, was indicted on multiple counts of money laundering and grand larceny.

He was taken into custody today by police in Ridgewood, N.J., where he has a $1.4 million home. It was not immediately clear when he would appear in court in Lower Manhattan.

Rondos allegedly stole some $4 million from the guardianships, and used that money to pay the mortgage on the Ridgewood home, and well as pay for extensive home renovations, including landscaping, kitchen renovations, and a home theater, prosecutors say.

As a court appointed guardian, Randos and his firm are accused of defrauding 23 incapacitated victims and the estate of another. In some instances, police say Randos and his firm continued to steal money even after the victim had died.

His victims reportedly included mentally and physically impaired elderly people, as well as children suffering from cerebral palsy due to medical malpractice at birth.

The scam started unfolding when officials at brokerage firm Smith Barney, which manages several of the accounts, noticed unusual withdrawals. They notified prosecutors, who launched an investigation.

Judges often appoint a guardian to manage the financial affairs of a victim who is unable to do so because they are elderly, crippled or a minor.

The guardianship positions are highly lucrative for attorneys, and have come under scrutiny by watchdog groups.


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