On presentments of the Ethics and Grievance Committees for Bergen County and Hudson County.
For disbarment -- Chief Justice Vanderbilt, and Justices Heher, Oliphant, Wachenfeld, Burling, Jacobs and Brennan. Opposed -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Wachenfeld, J.
This is a disciplinary case in which the decision has already been rendered and is now a matter of record. The respondent was disbarred by the unanimous vote of the court.
The purpose of the opinion is to record the circumstances and conduct complained of and the reasons for the judgment pronounced.
There were three presentments filed against the respondent, one by the Bergen County Ethics and Grievance Committee and two by the Hudson County Committee. The rule to show cause issued on these presentments was personally served upon the respondent, but upon its return he failed to appear or to be represented.
In August 1953 one of the complainants, Mrs. Louise Jaeger, a widow 65 years old, living in Newburgh, New York, met the respondent at the home of Mrs. Edwards, of Dumont, New Jersey. In her presence the respondent told Mrs. Edwards that he could put out money for investments which would return large profits. He knew places where he could obtain big loans but he would rather take small amounts and let other people make some money while he was doing likewise. He emphasized the fact that he was a lawyer and therefore would not do anything that was not right and on the "up and up." He gave assurances as to the legality of
the transaction and said that, being a lawyer, he knew what was right "and how to make those things out." He represented to them that if they were to give him money "it was to be invested."
This preliminary indoctrination was followed by a telephone call to Mrs. Jaeger while she was at the home of Mrs. Edwards, and he then suggested that she advance to him, for the purposes already outlined, either $800 or $1,400. If she were to invest the smaller amount of $800, she would receive in two months' time $975.
Thereafter the respondent drove to Newburgh, New York, saw Mrs. Jaeger and received from her $800 which was drawn from her bank account. He was cognizant of the fact that she was a widow and of the amount of money she had, as her bank books were exhibited to him, showing she had on deposit at the National Bank of Newburgh $2,400.73.
After receiving the money, the respondent gave Mrs. Jaeger a promissory note payable in two months for $975. In September, the following month, Mrs. Jaeger received a telephone call from the respondent in which he asked for another sum of $500, which Mrs. Jaeger complacently sent to him by Western Union. On this transaction he was to pay a bonus of $100 and return the money within two weeks.
None of the money so received by Agresta has ever been paid back. He admits the receipt of the cash, contending it was purely a loan. He was fully aware that he was dealing with a widowed lady of very modest means and that the bank account already referred to was her only asset. He also had knowledge that his financial status had so deteriorated as to make it impossible to borrow these sums from any bank or business institution and the possibility of his repaying the advances made was extremely remote.
Mrs. Edwards made a similar complaint against the respondent, but it was not heard because of her inability to ...