Representation of Attorney Accused of Securities Fraud

In 2018, Mr. Riopelle represented an attorney accused of participating in a “pump and dump” scheme with other defendants. After a five week trial, Mr. Riopelle obtained an acquittal on all counts for his client.

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‘Sopranos’ TV star’s ex-husband found guilty in pump-and-dump case
Lawyer is acquitted in alleged scheme to inflate stock price; actress’s ex-husband is convicted

Former Federal Prosecutor Weighs in on Russia Probe

Richard French speaks with former Federal Prosecutor Roland Riopelle about the investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia.

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Banana Mogul Thomas Hoey Boosts Defense Team In Federal Case

Mr. Caliendo was referred to as “legal muscle” in an article that described Sercarz & Riopelle as “one of the city’s top white-collar defense firms.”

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Mr. Riopelle Selected “Litigator of the Week” by the American Lawyer

Mr. Riopelle Selected “Litigator of the Week” by the American Lawyer

Mr. Riopelle was selected one of the “Litigators of the Week” by the American Lawyer in connection with his representation of Thomas Bradley Strickland in an enforcement action brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”).

SEC Faces New Insider-Trading Test

SEC Faces New Insider-Trading Test


Mr. Riopelle represented Thomas Bradley Strickland in an enforcement action brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”).  After a two week trial, the jury found in favor of Mr. Riopelle’s client, and the other defendants.

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Wall Street Journal – Going for Two in a Row SEC Faces New Insider-Trading Test (986kb)

The Madoff Trail

The Madoff Trail

Mr. Riopelle represented Annette Bongiorno, a former executive assistant for Bernard Madoff, during a trial that lasted nearly six months.  Mr. Riopelle did so despite the financial pressures and stresses such a lengthy trial imposes on an attorney with a small firm.

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LI lawyers acquitted after three-week corruption trial

LI lawyers acquitted after three-week corruption trial

Two Long Island lawyers were acquitted Tuesday in federal court in Brooklyn of conspiracy, fraud and money-laundering charges linked to corruption at the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).

Michael Freeman, 66, of Manhasset, a former chairman of the Nassau Community College board, and Lee Hymowitz, 62, of Oceanside, were charged in a kickback and bribery scheme involving former HPD assistant Commissioner Wendell Walters.

The jury returned its not guilty verdict on the second day of deliberations following a three-week trial.

Prosecutors alleged that Hymowitz and Freeman, partners in a New York City law firm, and developer Stevenson Dunn jointly owned a real estate company that allowed contractors on HPD projects to inflate their invoices in return for kickbacks.

Dunn, a high school friend of Walters, was also charged with bribing him. Hymowitz and Freeman were accused of concocting a sham legal retainer agreement to disguise more than $100,000 in kickbacks, which were then billed to taxpayers through HPD.

Defense lawyers for Hymowitz and Freeman argued that the retainer was legitimate and their clients weren’t part of a kickback scheme.

After the verdict, some jurors waited outside the courthouse to congratulate the defendants.

“I just want to get back to work and do what I do, which has been practicing law for the last 40 years,” Freeman told a reporter.

Hymowitz declined to comment.

Dunn was also acquitted. Walters pleaded guilty to corruption charges in 2012 and appeared as a witness at the trial.

Lawyers and Developer Acquitted of Scheme

A federal jury has acquitted two attorneys and a real estate developer of taking part in a kickback and bribery scheme connected to projects by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

The three defendants—attorneys Lee Hymowitz and Michael M. Freeman of Manhattan and real estate developer Stevenson Dunn—were found not guilty after a three-week trial in the Eastern District and two days of jury deliberations.

The 2011 multi-defendant indictment also had ensnared Wendell Walters, an assistant commissioner at the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, who pleaded guilty in 2012 to accepting $2.5 million in bribes and taking other benefits. Walters, still awaiting sentencing, testified for the prosecution in the recent trial. All other defendants have pleaded guilty.

Though prosecutors argued the kickbacks were disguised in a retainer agreement for a contractor who testified at trial for the government, the attorneys’ defense insisted the retainer at issue, containing about $100,000, was used for lawful services.

Freeman was represented by Gerald DiChiara and Nicholas Pinto. In an interview, Pinto said he was “glad justice was done. Mr. Freeman is anxious to move on with his life.” Hymowitz was represented by Maurice Sercarz and Robert Caliendo of Sercarz & Riopelle. Robert Anthony Evans, Jr. of the Law Offices of Evans and Al Shabazz represented Dunn.

“I couldn’t be more happy than I am right now,” Sercarz said in an interview, noting that he, Hymowitz, Freeman and DiChiara worked together almost 40 years ago in the Legal Aid Society. Sercarz called the case the “most emotional case I ever tried. I represented somebody I knew for all that time, as did Mr. DiChiara. I can’t tell you how hard this was.”

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Cristina Posa and Anthony Capozzolo appeared for the prosecution.

Civil Rights and First Amendment

Maurice Sercarz represented an individual charged with sex trafficking.

S&M Man Tortured by Cyberban

By Zach Haberman
Published June 21, 2005

Glen Marcus, 52, was barred by a Brooklyn magistrate judge from going near a computer following the civil-rights complaint filed against him last month, but his lawyer says Marcus must go online to mount his defense.

Marcus was indicted last week on charges of sex trafficking, forced labor and distributing obscene material for making money off a pay-per-view site featuring graphic photos of victims he’d lure into master-slave relationships and then hold captive, officials said.

The indictment alleges Marcus would torture and mutilate his victims. He pleaded not guilty and his lawyer, Maurice Sercarz, asked Judge Allyne Ross to overturn the magistrate’s decision and allow his client computer access – even if supervised – in order to find saucy sites that could clear his name.

Sercarz said the victims accusing Marcus were actually running their own raunchy Web sites “purely for their own benefits” and his client should be allowed to scour the Web to find those sites.

Civil Rights and First Amendment

Civil Rights and First Amendment

Mr. Sercarz, who represented the woman charged with stalking Alec Baldwin, based, in part, on the content of emails, filed a motion arguing that the crime of Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree was a violation of the First Amendment.

Corporate Fraud

Roland Riopelle provides legal insight and commentary to the New York Times on high profile white collar crime cases such as the late trading mutual fund case and the prosecution of Richard M. Scrushy, the former chief executive of HealthSouth.

Ex-Broker Acquitted on Most Mutual Fund Charges
By Riva D. Atlas and
Reed Abelson
Published June 10, 2005

“Roland G. Riopelle, a former federal prosecutor who practices law at Sercarz & Riopelle, said Mr. Spitzer was responsible for a sweeping overhaul of the mutual fund industry, through agreements and settlements with executives and companies.

“’He’s accomplished a hell of a lot long before this case went to the jury,’ he said.”

For Scrushy, Vexed Jury Could Still Give Verdict
By Reed Abelson
Published May 30, 2005

A Syle that Connected with Hometown Jurors
By Reed Abelson and John Glater
Published June 29, 2005

“Some lawyers said they thought the strategy might have helped the defense. ‘Those efforts that he [Scrushy] made, going on TV down there in Alabama and all the rest, must have helped him,’ said Roland Riopelle, a former prosecutor and now a partner at Sercarz & Riopelle in New York.”

For Scrushy, Vexed Jury Could Still Give Verdict
By Reed Abelson
Published May 30, 2005

A Syle that Connected with Hometown Jurors
By Reed Abelson and John Glater
Published June 29, 2005

“Some lawyers said they thought the strategy might have helped the defense. ‘Those efforts that he [Scrushy] made, going on TV down there in Alabama and all the rest, must have helped him,’ said Roland Riopelle, a former prosecutor and now a partner at Sercarz & Riopelle in New York.”

Plea Bargain Limits

As the Chairman of the Criminal Advocacy Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, Roland Riopelle was asked by Stand Up for What is Right and Just, a non-profit organization aimed at reforming the criminal justice system, and the New York Times to provide expert legal insight into a Department of Justice’s 2003 directive which limited the use of plea bargains in criminal prosecutions.

New Plea Bargain Limits Could Swamp Courts, Experts Say

By Adam Liptak and Eric Lichtblau
Published: Sept. 24, 2003

If Attorney General John Ashcroft’s new directive limiting the use of plea bargains in federal prosecutions were enforced to the letter, legal experts said, the criminal justice system would soon face a crisis.

The directive, which was issued on Monday to all federal prosecutors, requires them to charge defendants with “the most serious, readily provable offense” in every case and, with some exceptions, not to engage in plea negotiations thereafter.

“This clearly gives Attorney General Ashcroft a certain political soapbox he can stand on to say he’s tough on crime and won’t put up with local prosecutors pleading their cases out cheap,” said Roland Riopelle, the chairman of the Criminal Advocacy Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York.

Multimillion Dollar Marijuana Ring

Maurice Sercarz represented a married couple accused of masterminding a multimillion dollar marijuana ring and was quoted in the media for opposing hours of electronic eavesdropping on his clients by the police.

Lawyer Objects to Pot Ring Wiretap

By David Gurliacci
Published: April 12, 1990

“’This is an extraordinary intrusion into privacy, especially for a case involving marijuana – extraordinary,’ said Maurice Sercarz, a New York City lawyer representing Gregory Antonakos and his wife, Melody.

“’After all, they weren’t suspects in any violent behavior,’ or any sales of hard drugs like cocaine or heroin, Sercarz said. ‘The most intimate conversations between a husband and wife could be overheard.’”

Money Manager to the Stars

Roland Riopelle represented “money manager to the stars,” Dana Giacchetto. Mr. Giacchetto provided financial advice to the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz and Ben Affleck. In 2001, Mr. Giacchetto was prosecuted for allegedly stealing his celeb clients’ money.

No Mercy for Celeb Money Manager

By Josh Grossbert
Published: Feb. 8, 2001

“Giacchetto’s lawyer, Roland Riopelle, maintained that his client had already burned through the money.

“’There isn’t a pot of gold out there,’ said Riopelle.”

The Martha Stewart Trial

Roland Riopelle was extensively quoted in the New York Times providing legal insight during the prosecution and trial of Martha Stewart.

Stewart’s Celebrity Created Magnet for Scrutiny

By Jonathan D. Glater
Published: March 7, 2004

“Prosecuting someone famous can help to change behavior, though, and appeals to prosecutors seeking favorable media attention, said Roland Riopelle, a former federal prosecutor who practices at Sercarz & Riopelle in New York.

“’The government is in many cases quicker to pull the trigger on a public figure than a private citizen, and I think Martha Stewart was a victim of that,’ Mr. Riopelle said. ‘The truth is, quite honestly, it’s all more exciting and it creates all the more press.’

“As a result, he concluded, ‘They’re more likely to charge a prominent person for a piddly crime than they are an ordinary Joe.’”

Political Corruption

Roland Riopelle represented a defendant in the 2004 trial of former New York State Labor Commissioner James McGowan in which Mr. Riopelle defended against the government’s allegations of political power playing, mail fraud, conspiracy, and bribery. Mr. Riopelle’s opening statement in which he “assailed” a cooperating witness was quoted in the Journal News.

Fraud Trial Begins

By Timothy O’Conner
Published April 22, 2004

“Segreti’s lawyer, Roland Riopelle, assailed Harnisch during opening arguments, saying he had cut a deal with the government to save himself. Harnisch, he said has a history of getting caught committing crime and then bailing himself out by point fingers at others.

“’Mr. Harnisch is a career criminal hiding behind the protection of a law license and a deal with the government,’ he said.”

Purported Organized Crime and Consumer Fraud

Maurice Sercarz was quoted in the New York Times and a series of articles in the Village Voice by Tom Robbins in connection with Mr. Sercarz’s representation of the lead defendant in a multi-defendant case in which the government alleged that purported members of the Gambino Crime Family bilked consumers of hundreds of millions dollars in scams involving pornographic internet websites and 1-900 telephone services.

Mob is Accused of Bilking Consumers of $200 Million
By William K. Rashbaum

“Maurice H. Sercarz, said yesterday that he had not yet seen the indictment because his client will not be arraigned until next week. ‘From what we know, this is a patchwork of old allegations, none of which are true, and we look forward to an early trial date and quick exoneration …,’ he said.”

John Gotti’s Crew Makes a High-Tech Killing
Cyber-Age Goodfellas

By Tom Robbins
Published February 18-24, 2004

“’The only cramming going on in this case is that the government has taken two civil investigations in disparate industries and they are cramming this case into the structure of an organized crime indictment,’ said Maurice Sercarz.”

Conviction Reversed on Appeal

Conviction Reversed on Appeal

September 5, 2008
Admission of coconspirators’ plea allocutions requires reversal of convictions, circuit says

By: Mark Hamblett

The unconstitutional admission of eight plea allocutions at a criminal trial has led a federal appeals court to vacate the murder and racketeering convictions of three alleged organized crime members.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit yesterday said that the prosecutors should not have been able to introduce plea allocutions by non-testifying co-conspirators against Guiseppe Schifilliti, Philip Abramo and Stefano Vitabile at their 2003 trial.

The use of the allocutions, the court said, ran directly contrary to the instruction of the U.S. Supreme Court in Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004), where the Court said the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause is violated by the “admission of testimonial statement of a witness who did not appear at trial unless he was unavailable to testify, and the defendant had had a prior opportunity for cross-examination.”

The tree defendants were alleged members of the New Jersey-based Decavalcante organized crime family who were convicted before Southern District Judge Michael Mukasey. They were sentenced to life in prison.

With the government conceding on appeal that it was error for the court to admit the allocutions under Crawford, and the defense objecting to the admissions at trial, but not on Confrontation Clause grounds, the Second Circuit reviewed the admission under the “plain error” standard.

Under that standard of review, the analysis boiled down to whether the “substantial rights” of the defendants were affected, wrote Judge Dennis Jacobs in United States v. Riggi, 06-1280-cr.

“Here, the plea allocutions undoubtedly prejudiced the jury and influenced their verdicts,” Judge Jacobs said. He was joined on the panel by Judges Guido Calabresi and Robert Sack.

Judge Mukasey, who is now the U.S. Attorney General, had given limiting instructions to the jury that the plea allocutions were to be considered only for establishing that a particular racketeering enterprise or conspiracy existed, and were not to be use dot prove that any defendant was a participant.

But the Second Circuit said the limiting instructions were not enough to mitigate the constitutional violation.

Judge Jacobs said “prejudice arose from the sheer number of plea allocutions admitted to prove” the nine different conspiracies alleged in the case and that “many of the conspiracies were overlapping such that evidence of one tended to support the existence of another.”

The circuit was also concerned, Judge Jacobs said, that “the detailed content of the plea allocutions corresponded to elements of the crimes charged against defendants, potentially boosting the government’s proof in those areas.”

The panel also took note of the “prejudicial spillover” of the allocutions, which it said was “manifest in the alignment of the verdicts.”

“The jury convicted on every substantive count supported by a plea allocution; and where no plea allocution was offered in support of a substantive count, the jury acquitted,” Judge Jacobs wrote.

The government argued on appeal that the lower court’s error was harmless because the evidence of guilt was overwhelming.

But the circuit said that, while there was other evidence, the government’s case “consisted primarily of cooperating witness testimony, which, even viewed in the light most favorable to the government, contained inconsistencies and contradictions.”

And Judge Jacobs noted that the government leaned heavily on the plea allocutions on summation, “attributing to them undue probative value and significance.”

Roland Riopelle of Sercarz & Riopelle represented Mr. Schifilliti, who along with Mr. Abramo and Mr. Vitabile, was tied to the 1991 murder of Decavalcante captain Louis LaRasso through the plea allocution of coconspirator Anthony Rotondo.

Mr. Riopelle said the decision could make a big difference for his client as the government prepared for retrial or plea negotiations.

“I would think that, in particular for Mr. Schifilliti, I thin the substantive homicide count was very difficult for the government to prove even with the guilty plea allocution,” Mr. Riopelle said. “And while the Second Circuit did hold that there was sufficient evidence to go to the jury, this is a case where a retrial of that count might well come out in Mr. Schifilliti’s favor.”

Inga Parsons of Marblehead, Mass. Represented Philip Abramo.

Sanford Talkin of Talkin, Muccigrosso & Roberts represented Mr. Vitabile.

“We’re very happy with the decision,” Mr. Talkin said. “The lawyers worked together very hard on this and we look forward to getting back to the Southern District to see what happens in the case.”

Assistant U.S. Attorneys John M. Hillebrecht, Miriam Rocah and Katherine Polk Failla represented the government.

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