Attorneys settle with Cuomo, will pay back public benefits

John O'Brien May 8, 2008, 2:00pm

NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's investigation into attorneys ripping off public funds has produced two settlements.

Buffalo law firm Hodgson Russ and Capital Region attorney Maureen Harris both reached agreements with Cuomo and will be forced to rescind all public benefits they wrongfully received.

"In recent months my office has uncovered long-term and systemic fraud on the public pension and benefits systems which have potentially wasted millions of taxpayer dollars," Cuomo said.

"Lawyers representing school districts and BOCES across the state were given public benefits they were not entitled to. Some lawyers have received illegal perks for years and were improperly put on district payrolls. My office will continue to follow this investigation wherever it leads, and we will put an end to this abuse."

Cuomo's investigation began in February. He is looking for information from more than 70 upstate attorneys and 20 in Long Island, claiming they could have been able to collect taxpayer-funded health care, pensions and other benefits not available for professional consultants.

"In many instances, these were not simple misunderstandings but repeated acts of fraud," Cuomo said.

One attorney was on the payrolls of seven school districts and Boards of Cooperative Educational Services in one year and may have gained more than $700,000 in pension benefits, Cuomo said.

The Hodgson firm had agreements with five BOCES in which their lawyers were improperly listed as employees. Harris received pension benefits while at Girvin & Ferlazzo. She was listed as an employee with the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery BOCES and must pay $50,000 as part of the settlement. The Hodgson firm also has to pay $50,000.

Cuomo recently widened his investigation to include all BOCES in the state.

From Legal Newsline: John O'Brien can be reached at

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