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In re Ibrahim

Supreme Court of New Jersey

August 7, 2019

In the Matter of Aiman Ibrahim An Attorney at Law

          Ellen A. Brodsky Chief Counsel

          DECISION

          BONNIE C. FROST, CHAIR

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

         This matter was before us on a certification of the record filed by the Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE), pursuant to K 1:20-4(f). The formal ethics complaint charged respondent with violations of RPC 1.15(a) and the principles of In re Wilson, 81 N.J. 451 (1979) and In re Hollendonner, 102 N.J. 21 (1985) (knowing misappropriation of client and escrow funds); RPC 8.1(a) (false statement of fact in connection with a disciplinary matter); RPC 8.1(b) (failure to reply to a lawful demand for information from a disciplinary authority); RPC 8.4(b) (criminal conduct) (violations of N.J.S.A. 2C:20-9, N.J.S.A. 2C:21-5, and N.J.S.A. 2C:21-15); RPC 8.4(c) (conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation); and RPC 8.4(d) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).

         For the reasons set forth below, we recommend respondent's disbarment.

         Respondent was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 2008 and the New York bar in 2009. He has no disciplinary history in New Jersey.

         Service of process was proper in this matter. On October 11, 2018, in accordance with R. 1:20-7(h), the OAE sent a copy of the complaint, by regular and certified mail, return receipt requested, to respondent's office in Totowa, New Jersey, and the home address listed in the records of the New Jersey Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection (the Fund). On October 15, 2018, the certified mail sent to respondent's home address was delivered. Although the signature of the recipient's first name is illegible, the last name appears to be Ibrahim. The regular mail was not returned. The record does not disclose the disposition of the mail sent to respondent's office.

         On November 7, 2018, the OAE sent a letter to respondent in accordance with R. l:20-4(e) to his home address, by regular and certified mail, return receipt requested, warning respondent that, if he failed to file a verified answer to the complaint within five days of the date of the letter, the allegations of the complaint would be deemed admitted, the entire record would be certified directly to us for the imposition of discipline, and the complaint would be deemed amended to include a violation of RPC 8.1(b). The certified mail was delivered on November 13, 2018. Again, the first name of the recipient's signature is illegible, but the last name appears to be Ibrahim. The regular mail was not returned.

         As of November 20, 2018, respondent had not filed an answer to the complaint, and the time within which he was required to do so had expired. Accordingly, the OAE certified this matter to us as a default.

         We now turn to the allegations of the complaint.

         On October 6, 2016, the OAE received notice from PNC Bank of an overdraft in respondent's attorney trust account (ATA). This notice prompted the OAE to undertake an investigation, which revealed the following.

         In 2014, Whole Foods, Inc. (Whole Foods) attempted to purchase a liquor license for its future location in Jersey City, New Jersey. Respondent represented the seller of the license, Landico Realty. On May 21, 2014, the parties signed a contract for the sale. On June 11, 2014, Whole Foods sent respondent a check for $16, 500, representing the deposit he was required to hold in escrow. Respondent deposited the funds into his trust account.

         The contract provided a 120-day period for Whole Foods to obtain approval from the Alcohol and Beverage Control Commission of Jersey City (Jersey City ABC) for the purchase of the liquor license. Due to Landico's tax problems, Jersey City ABC did not approve the sale of the liquor license. Thus, on April 27, 2016, respondent sent an e-mail to Richard Nasca, counsel for Whole Foods, explaining that the Internal Revenue Service was unwilling to settle Landico's tax matters and that his client was pursuing a Chapter 13 reorganization to prioritize debt, remove any prohibition on the sale of assets, and move the sale of the liquor license into a priority position. On May 6, 2016, Nasca informed respondent, via e-mail, that Whole Foods was terminating the contract. On June 1, 2016, at respondent's request, Nasca sent formal notice of the cancellation of the contract. In that letter, he requested the return of the $16, 500 Whole Foods deposit.

         Nasca made several subsequent requests for the return of the deposit. On June 15, 2016, respondent replied that he was waiting to meet with his client to tell him in person that the contract was terminated. Respondent assured Nasca that the deposit money would be returned immediately thereafter. In a follow-up e-mail on July 5, 2016, respondent informed Nasca that his client was not responding to him, and that he had directed his accountant to close the trust ...


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