YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A disbarred attorney who had offices in Englewood Cliffs was charged by Bergen County authorities with siphoning $88,000 from a severely injured client’s $100,000 insurance settlement for his own use.
Bail was set at $300,000 on theft, forgery and unlawful disposition of property charges against 48-year-old Jeffrey P. Squitieri, who was in federal custody.
Squitieri, who was disbarred 17 months ago, was sentenced in December 2012 in Manhattan to 30 months in federal prison after admitting that he filed a $1 million claim against the FBI for a man who he thought was a car accident victim. The man actually was an undercover agent working with a healthcare fraud task force.
Wearing a wire, the agent met with Squitieri and made repeated visits to a medical clinic and received unnecessary MRIs and medical treatments over a few months to boost the claim.
“Jeffrey Squitieri had a novel and corrupt concept of what it means to zealously represent his legal clients,” said Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan. “He used them to perpetrate a fraud on the healthcare industry by encourating, and even badgering them into scheduling multiple, unnecessary doctor visits and medical procedures at a clinic with which he was colluding.”
Meanwhile, in Bergen County, an investigation by his White Collar Crimes Unit found that Squitieri illegally diverted the tens of thousands of dollars in 2009, Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said early this afternoon.
The victim, Guillermo Henao, suffered a severe head injury and several broken bones when he was hit by a BMW in front of his Englewood apartment building that November 2009, records show.
While Henao was hospitalized and comatose, his 24-year-old son Victor signed his father’s name to the retainer agreement without authorization, according to a suit filed against the disbarred lawyer.
Around December 2009, with Henao recently out of his coma, Squitieri got the son to sign a release settling the case for $100,000 while falsely certifying that he saw Henao sign, records show.
Squitieri then allegedly kept $88,000 of the settlement proceeds, paying the other $12,000 to Care One of Wellington, where Henao spent a month in rehabilitation.
Squitieri “was in such a rush to get a hold of these settlement funds” because he was under investigation and facing disbarment in New York, where he kept his primary office, and needed money to defend the charges, a lawsuit alleged.
The family accused Squitieri of also failing to pursue about $250,000 in benefits, which, combined with the alleged theft, left them unable to pay for Henao’s care.
It prematurely ended his in-patient rehabilitation and exposed him to a collection suit, they charged.
A judge gave Squitieri until Jan. 21, 2011, to return the money and he failed to comply, court papers show.
As a result, a $2.58 million judgment was entered against him, seeking $328,200 for economic damages, $750,000 for pain and suffering and $1.5 million in punitive damages.
MUGSHOT: Courtesy BERGEN COUNTY PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE