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 Lawyersâ€™ 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 stateâ€™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. Oâ€™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, Oâ€™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, Oâ€™Sullivan said.
Bernas, 56, who built a $2 million mansion in East Aurora with money misappropriated from clients, has been an inmate at the stateâ€™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, Oâ€™Sullivan emphasized. All the reimbursement money comes from registration fees that all the stateâ€™s nearly 300,000 honest lawyers periodically pay for the right to continue practicing in this state, he said.