A part-time city judge who resigned without explanation two weeks ago had his law license suspended this week and is the target of a criminal investigation involving alleged thefts from clients, police and prosecutors said Thursday.
The Appellate Division of State Supreme Court posted an order Monday suspending David R. Wendt, 45, from the practice of law.
Niagara County District Attorney Matthew J. Murphy III said he received two complaints about "financial dealings between the attorney and his clients."
Murphy referred them to the Lockport Police Department, where Detective Capt. Lawrence M. Eggert said his investigation is in its early stages. "It involves a larceny," he said.
Records in the Niagara County clerk's office show that in October 2003, the Internal Revenue Service filed a lien on Wendt's property for $111,816 in unpaid taxes for 2000, 2001 and 2002.
In March 2003, a $108,147 lien demanded payment of taxes owed for 1995 through 1998, and a $40,859 lien sought quarterly tax payments from July 1999 through the end of 2002.
The state Tax Department also filed numerous liens of several hundred dollars against Wendt for unpaid income and unemployment insurance taxes.
In addition, court papers show two judgments against Wendt. In January, he was ordered to pay his ex-wife $46,582 in principal, interest and attorney fees for defaulting on their 1990 divorce settlement.
The settlement was reworked in 1992 to reduce the payments to $350 a month for nine years, but Wendt defaulted on that, too, the court documents showed.
Also, Wendt was slapped with a $12,923 judgment in 2003 for not paying for his Verizon Yellow Pages advertisement.
Wendt did not return a call seeking comment.
The suspension was imposed on the recommendation of the Attorney Grievance Committee for the Eighth Judicial District, which covers the eight counties of Western New York.
The committee's chief counsel, David L. Edmunds Jr., said confidentiality laws prevented him from explaining the nature of the charges.
Wendt's part-time judgeship paid $13,600 a year. He handled primarily traffic tickets and small-claims cases. In January 2002, he began his second six-year term on the bench by appointment of then-Mayor Thomas C. Sullivan.
It's up to Mayor Michael W. Tucker to appoint a replacement for Wendt.