Two more ex-Bernas clients reimbursed $300,427 by lawyers’ protective fund - The Buffalo News
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Two more ex-Bernas clients reimbursed $300,427 by lawyers’ protective fund

Two more former clients of now-imprisoned lawyer Kenneth P. Bernas have been awarded a total of $300,427 that he embezzled from them, according to the Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection.

The recent award brings to 35 the number of the former Bernas clients who have been reimbursed more than $1.5 million through the state’s lawyer-financed protective fund.

In addition, a second client of the late Buffalo lawyer Richard L. Baumgarten was just reimbursed $4,000 for unearned legal fees he was charged, according to Timothy J. O’Sullivan, Albany-based spokesman for the fund.

And 15 former clients of disbarred Rochester lawyer Andrew L. Cohen were just reimbursed a total of $32,247. The fund has now reimbursed 56 former Cohen clients for funds he misappropriated.

The award to the former client of Baumgarten, who died in 2007, is in addition to the $4,300 the fund last year reimbursed a Buffalo couple Baumgarten had represented before he was suspended from legal practice, O’Sullivan said.

The recent awards to the former clients of Bernas, Baumgarten and Cohen were among the 67 clients of 27 former New York State lawyers recently reimbursed more than $3 million, bringing to more than $165 million reimbursed to people defrauded by corrupt lawyers in the state since the Court of Appeals created the fund in 1982, O’Sullivan said.

Bernas, 56, who built a $2 million mansion in East Aurora with money misappropriated from clients, has been an inmate at the state’s Groveland Correctional Facility, serving a prison term of up to seven years.

New York State taxpayers do not fund any of the reimbursements to victims of corrupt lawyers, O’Sullivan emphasized. All the reimbursement money comes from registration fees that all the state’s nearly 300,000 honest lawyers periodically pay for the right to continue practicing in this state, he said.


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