Suspended Howell lawyer, ex-partner indicted on theft charges
A suspended attorney from Howell Township and a former partner in a Newark law office appear headed for trial, indicted for allegedly pocketing $140,000 from clients.
Gerald M. Saluti, Jr., 49, of Howell, and Richard M. Roberts, 79, of Bloomfield, face second-degree charges of conspiracy anf failure to make required disposition of property received, and third-degree counts of hindering apprehension or prosecution and perjury, according to the office of New Jersey Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino.
Convictions for second-degree charges carry possible five- to 10-year prison terms. Third-degree charges carry potential three- to five-year sentences. Each also has the potential for tens of thousands of dollars in fines.
The funds, in the firm's attorney trust account on behalf of four clients, included settlement awards and escrow money to meet client payment obligations, according to investigators.
Saluti and Roberts are accused of using the money to pay expenses for their firm, and for personal expenses, including car, credit card and entertainment bills, and in Roberts's case, alimony, between October 2012 and August 2013.
The attorneys dissolved their partnership, Saluti Law Group, in August 2013. Saluti was suspended from law practice in February 2014, and Roberts was suspended in November 2015, authorities said.
Authorities allege that both attorneys placed the blame for misappropriations to the firm's practice administrator, Gabriel Iannacone, in discussions with law enforcement, and again under oath, but that they collaborated with him.
Iannacone awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to a third-degree charge of conspiracy to commit theft. The Attorney General's office sadi that the investigation into Saluti and Roberts remains open, and that additional charges might be filed.
Deputy Attorney General Cynthia Vazquez led the state's case before the grand jury. Saluti is represeneted by Newark attorney Lawrence Lustberg. Representation for Roberts was undetermined at the time the informaton was disseminated.
Charges are accusations. Defendants are presumed innocent unless, and until, found guilty in a court of law.