In the Matter of Alfredo Ramos, Jr. An Attorney at Law
Docket No. XIV-2017-0567E
A. Brodsky Chief Counsel.
W. Clark, Chair.
Honorable Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme
Court of New Jersey.
matter was before us on a certification of the record filed
by the Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE), pursuant to R.
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); RPC 1.15(b) (failure to promptly
disburse funds to a third party); RPC 3.3(a)(5)
(failure to disclose a material fact to a tribunal);
RPC 8.1(b) (failure to disclose a fact in a
disciplinary matter necessary to correct a misapprehension
known by the person to have arisen in the matter and a
failure to cooperate with disciplinary officials);
RPC 8.4(b) (criminal act that reflects adversely on
the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a
lawyer in other respects); and RPC 8.4(c) (conduct
involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation).
reasons set forth below, we determine to recommend
was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 2007. On July 3, 2018,
he was temporarily suspended from the practice of law in
connection with the instant disciplinary matter. In re
Ramos, 234 N.J. 76 (2018).
of process was proper in this matter. On September 24, 2018,
the OAE sent a copy of the complaint to respondent at his
"home office" address, by regular and certified
mail, return receipt requested. The certified mail was
returned marked "unable to forward, return to
sender." The regular mail was not returned.
October 29, 2018, the OAE sent a letter to respondent to the
same address, by certified mail, return receipt requested,
and by regular mail, 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). On January 16, 2019, the
certified mail was delivered, but the signature on the return
receipt is illegible. The regular mail was not returned.
February 13, 2019, 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.
turn to the allegations of the complaint.
and Richard Massey retained respondent in connection with the
sale of commercial and residential real estate located in
River Vale, New Jersey, along with the businesses operated on
the premises under the names of The Pet Lodge, LLC, and The
Grooming Table, Inc., to Thomas A. Ciardella, Sr.,
individually and d/b/a 272 Cedar Lane, LLC, and Pet Lodge at
River Vale, LLC. Michael J. Pasquale, Esq. represented
August 9, 2016, the parties memorialized the terms of the
transaction in a "Non-Binding Proposed Term Sheet,"
setting forth a proposed closing date of October 1, 2016 and
requiring a $100, 000 deposit. On September 16, 2016,
Pasquale sent respondent Ciardella's personal check for
$100, 000, payable to respondent's attorney trust account
(ATA), representing the deposit for the transaction. On
September 19, 2016, respondent deposited the check in his
ATA, bringing the balance of the account to $100, 000.
the next seven days, through September 26, 2016, respondent
engaged in seven transactions, reducing the balance of his
ATA to $76, 521.17. He made three on-line transfers to his
attorney business account (ABA), made one large e-payment to
the U.S. Department of Education, wrote two ATA checks
payable to his law office, and wrote one ATA check payable to
Steve Rich and Associates, Inc. None of the seven
disbursements were related to the Massey/Ciardella
transaction. During this same period, respondent's ABA
was overdrawn, resulting in multiple overdraft fees. The
three transactions to respondent's ABA were used to cover
November 2016, the parties executed a Contract for Sale and a
Rider to Contract for Sale of Real Estate, agreeing to a
total sales price of $1, 050, 000, with a deposit of $100,
000 and an allocation of $450, 000 of the sales price to
land, $400, 000 to building and fixtures, and $200, 000 to
business assets, including business equipment and inventory,
as well as good will and other intangible assets. The
Masseys, however, became frustrated, and no longer wanted to
sell the property because the real estate closing was delayed
several times. They never authorized respondent to use the
funds for any purpose other than for their real estate
transaction, and presumed that respondent maintained the
escrow deposit intact in his ATA.
April 10, 2017, Pasquale's office prepared and filed the
requisite bulk sale escrow notice. By letter dated April 17,
2017, however, respondent informed Pasquale that it was the
closing agent's duty to request and provide a written
bulk sale escrow notice and the mortgage payoff statements,
and that those documents were not available as of the final
closing date. Therefore, respondent asserted that Ciardella
was not ready, willing, and able to close, and that the
transaction should be canceled.
replied to respondent on the same day, asserting that his
letter was "most unwelcome" and that his attempted
termination of the contract was "not warranted or
lawful." Pasquale further noted that his client was
ready, willing, and able to close. That same day, Pasquale
sent a separate letter to respondent enclosing a copy of the
Division of Taxation Bulk Sales Escrow Notice requiring that
$20, 000 be placed in escrow to protect the interests of the
purchaser and the State of New Jersey for any unpaid tax
liabilities, and that an additional $2, 300 be placed ...