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In re Rich

Supreme Court of New Jersey

February 26, 2018

IN THE MATTER OF STUART I. RICH AN ATTORNEY AT LAW

          Argued: November 16, 2017

          Disciplinary Review Board Bonnie C. Frost, Chair Ellen A. Brodsky Chief Counsel.

          CORRECTED DECISION

         Eugene Racz appeared on behalf of the Office of Attorney Ethics.

         Respondent did not appear, despite proper service.

         To the Honorable Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

         This matter was before us on a motion for final discipline filed by the Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE) following respondent's guilty plea in the New York Supreme Court to one count of fifth-degree criminal tax fraud, in violation of 20 N.Y.C.R.R. §1802, a Class A misdemeanor under §70.14 of the New York Penal Code. The OAE requests the imposition of a two-year suspension for respondent's violation of RPC 8.4(b) (criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer) and RPC 8.4(c) (conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation). For the reasons stated below, we determine to grant the motion for final discipline and impose a two-year prospective suspension on respondent for his misconduct.

         Respondent was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 1991. In 1992, he was admitted to the New York and Pennsylvania bars. It appears that respondent does not practice law in New Jersey.

         Respondent has no disciplinary history in New Jersey. However, the Court entered an Order, effective August 28, 2017, declaring respondent ineligible to practice, based on his failure to pay his annual registration fee to the New Jersey Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection.

         On May 25, 2016, a criminal complaint was filed against respondent in the Criminal Court of the City of New York, County of New York, State of New York, charging him with four counts of second-degree criminal tax fraud, in violation of New York Tax Law §1805, and four counts of fifth-degree criminal tax fraud, in violation of New York Tax Law §1802. The complaint alleged that respondent had not filed state income tax returns for the years 2008 through 2013, despite earned partnership income ranging from $583, 342 to $852, 422.

         On an unidentified date in 2016, upon respondent's waiver of indictment, the district attorney for the County of New York filed a nine-count information against respondent, charging him with three counts of second-degree criminal tax fraud, in violation of 20 N.Y.C.R.R. §1805, based on his willful failure to file a New York State resident income tax return for the years 2010 through 2012; one count of fifth-degree criminal tax fraud, in violation of 20 N.Y.C.R.R. §1805, based on his willful failure to file a New York State resident income tax return for the year 2013; and four counts of repeated failure to file personal income and earnings taxes, in violation of 20 N.Y.C.R.R. §1808(a), based on his failure to file a tax return for three consecutive years and corresponding unpaid tax liability. The repeated-failure-to-file charges covered the following time periods: January 1, 2009 to December 31, 2011; January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2012; January 1, 2011 to December 2013; and January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2014.

         On June 2, 2016, respondent pleaded guilty to the single count of fifth-degree criminal tax fraud. He testified that he willfully failed to file a New York State personal income tax return for the years 2008 through 2013 and that, for each of those years, he had a tax liability of more than $50, 000. He admitted that, in doing so, he intentionally evaded paying taxes to the State of New York for each of those years.

         Respondent agreed to pay nearly $1.2 million in back taxes, including penalties and interest. He was sentenced to a one-year conditional discharge, which was to expire on June 1, 2017.

         On an unidentified date, respondent notified the OAE of his conviction.

         Following a review of the record, we determine to grant the OAE's motion. A criminal conviction is conclusive evidence of .guilt in a disciplinary proceeding. R. l:20-13(c) (1); In re Magid, 139 M.J. 449, 451 (1995); In re Principato, 139 N.J. 456, 460 (1995). Respondent's conviction establishes a violation of RFC 8.4(b). Pursuant to that Rule, it is professional misconduct for an attorney to "commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer." The facts underlying respondent's conviction also establish that he engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation, a violation of RPC ...


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