Friday, October 30, 2020

Ex-lawyer Lagan serving jail time for money laundering gets additional years for swindling elderly clients

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Disbarred attorney Thomas Lagan was sentenced to six and a half years in federal prison Wednesday for his role in the nearly $12 million plundering of his elderly clients, including prominent Capital Region philanthropists Warren and Pauline Bruggeman.

Senior U.S. District Judge Lawrence Khan also ordered Lagan, 61, to pay more than $7.7 million in restitution to the victims, including beneficiaries of his former clients, churches and charities. Lagan’s former business partner and co-conspirator, ex-Guilderland Town Justice Richard Sherwood, who also pleaded guilty in the case, is yet to be sentenced. Sherwood owes more than $5.5 million in restitution.

“Sherwood and Lagan created such a mess through their fraud that we’re still identifying victims and figuring out how much each victim is owed,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Barnett, who prosecuted the case.

Lagan, a financial advisor and lawyer who handled estates, pleaded guilty in August to federal money laundering conspiracy and filing false tax returns. He is already serving a 4-to-12 year sentence based on his first-degree grand larceny conviction in Albany County Court. The sentences will run concurrently.

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Before his sentencing, Lagan wrote a letter to the judge blaming his crime spree on  rampant alcohol use. His lawyer, Kevin Luibrand, told the judge that Lagan, formerly of Slingerlands, would “drink seven to 10 vodkas or wine drinks a day.”

Lagan, an attorney since 1986, also told the judge that “for the first time, I can read and understand the legal charges levied against me.”

Lagan, who made between $400,000 and $600,000 a year at his job, conspired with Sherwood to scam the Bruggemans and Pauline Bruggeman’s sisters.  The lawyers wrote eight $14,000 checks to one another, their wives and children — and used thousands of dollars from the estates of clients to pay for the college tuition of Lagan’s daughter.

Warren Bruggeman died in April 2009. His wife passed away in August 2011. At that time, her personal and trust assets were valued at appromixately $20 million. Lagan and Sherwood stole and laundered millions from the estate and the estate of Anne Urban, one of Pauline Bruggeman’s  sisters who died in 2013. They diverted and transferred millions of dollars that had belonged to Julia Rentz, another sister of Pauline Bruggeman who had dementia. She died in 2013.

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The judge ordered Lagan to forfeit proceeds of his crimes, which include 10 bank and brokerage accounts; three properties in Otsego County; a 2016 Mercedes Benz S550; a 2015 Jeep Wrangler Sport; a 2015 Lexus RX450;  and a 2015 Sea-Doo jet ski and accompanying trailer. He previously paid $255,000 to the government.

“Fueled by insatiable greed, Thomas Lagan stole millions of dollars earmarked for churches and civic organizations,” U.S. Attorney Grant Jaquith said in a statement.  “Lagan was trusted to carry out his victims’ charitable endeavors, but betrayed them after they died.  Today’s sentence holds him accountable for his despicable behavior and ensures that his crimes won’t pay.”

The federal and state cases involved Jaquith’s office, Albany field office of the FBI, state attorney general’s office and New York field office of  the IRS’ criminal investigation unit.

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