HomeCar InsuranceNew York lawyer pleads guilty to Ponzi scheme, insurance fraud

New York lawyer pleads guilty to Ponzi scheme, insurance fraud

Sept 18 (Reuters) – A disbarred Forest Hills, New York, attorney on Monday pleaded guilty to federal charges stemming from his roles in an $18.8 million Ponzi scheme and a $30 million auto insurance fraud, prosecutors said.

Robert Wisnicki, 44, pleaded to guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, both carrying a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Wisnicki also agreed to forfeit more than $19 million and pay restitution of $18.8 million. Lawyers for Wisnicki did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“As he has now admitted, Robert Wisnicki committed a wide array of criminal acts as part of multiple schemes designed to line his own pockets and cover his tracks,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement.

Wisnicki initially pleaded not guilty in January 2022. His sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 12.

For years, Wisnicki ran a Ponzi scheme using his law firms’ client accounts, prosecutors said. Investors gave Wisnicki money after he identified real estate opportunities for them. Instead of telling them they suffered losses, he paid them back using non-investor client funds.

He also used funds from new investors to pay back old investors, prosecutors added.

Wisnicki also took part in an auto insurance fraud scheme by laundering money for an organization that had been taking advantage of New York and New Jersey’s no fault auto insurance laws, prosecutors said.

New York and New Jersey require auto insurers to pay certain claims, often directly to medical providers, without assigning fault to any party. A group of people — known as the Gulkarov organization — began allegedly exploiting that by finding car accident victims and allegedly pressuring them to have unnecessary and painful medical procedures.

The Gulkarov organization then fraudulently overbilled the insurance companies, using Wisnicki’s law firm and other entities to launder the proceeds, prosecutors said. Wisnicki accepted the money even though he had no attorney-client relationship with the organization, prosecutors added.

Related criminal charges are still pending against other defendants, although at least two have also pleaded guilty, federal court records show.

Reporting by David Thomas

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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David Thomas reports on the business of law, including law firm strategy, hiring, mergers and litigation. He is based out of Chicago. He can be reached at d.thomas@thomsonreuters.com and on Twitter @DaveThomas5150.

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