Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that former Orange County attorney JOSEPH SCALI was sentenced to seven years in prison in connection with SCALI’s conviction for mail fraud, structuring cash transactions, making false statements to the IRS, obstructing the IRS, tax evasion, obstruction of justice, and perjury following a four-week jury trial. SCALI was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Nelson S. Román, who presided over the trial.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “Joseph Scali, a former attorney, was convicted of embezzling $850,000 from his attorney trust account that held third party funds from an uncompleted real estate transaction. Instead of returning the funds – which he was required to do by law – Scali used them on his personal expenses, including sports tickets and international travel. Scali also filed false tax returns and made false sworn statements to the court. Joseph Scali violated his responsibilities as a lawyer and a taxpayer, and now will have seven years in federal prison to reflect on his wide array of financial crimes and failure to act ethically before the court.”
According to the Indictment, court filings, and statements made in public court proceedings:
From January 2011 through August 2012, SCALI – then a licensed, practicing attorney – perpetrated a scheme to defraud a prospective buyer of land and mineral rights in Pennsylvania. SCALI represented the seller in the land transaction and was entrusted to hold the buyer’s funds in his attorney trust account pending closing, which never took place. Instead of preserving the buyer’s funds and returning them when the transaction fell through, SCALI embezzled $850,000 of the buyer’s money from his attorney trust account and spent the majority on personal expenses, including season sports tickets, luxury clothing items, and trips abroad.
After defrauding the buyer, SCALI engaged in tax evasion for the years 2011 and 2012 by, among other things, deliberately withholding from the IRS his attorney trust account records, which would have revealed the funds he had misappropriated and made him liable for hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid federal income taxes.
In addition, between 2006 and November 2013, SCALI corruptly endeavored to obstruct the IRS by (a) providing materially false, incomplete, and misleading information to an IRS Revenue Officer about his tax filing history and income; (b) commingling client funds and personal funds in his attorney trust account; (c) paying for personal items directly out of his attorney trust account; (d) structuring $32,400 in cash deposits into his attorney trust account. In addition, SCALI failed to timely file U.S. Individual Income Tax Returns, Forms 1040, for the years 2006 through 2012, as well as U.S. Corporate Income Tax Returns, Forms 1120, for his law firm, Joseph G. Scali, P.C., for the years 2007 through 2012, notwithstanding that he was required by law to file a return for each year. SCALI was also separately convicted of making false statements to the IRS and structuring cash deposits.
In all, SCALI caused the IRS to incur losses of over $500,000, not including penalties and interest.
SCALI also committed obstruction of justice and perjury when, in seeking to set aside his disbarment by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, he lied under oath to that court about the reason for his 2013 suspension from the practice of law in New York State.
In 2014 and 2015, SCALI perpetrated a second mail fraud scheme by fraudulently undertaking a legal representation of a client for a fee without disclosing his 2013 suspension from the practice of law in New York State.
On July 6, 2016, SCALI was disbarred by the Second Judicial Department of the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Román ordered SCALI to serve three years of supervised release and to pay restitution totaling $1,511,534.73 to the victims of his mail fraud schemes and the IRS.
Mr. Berman praised the work of the IRS, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Special Agents of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in this investigation. Mr. Berman also thanked the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, the New York State Police, the Counsel for the Grievance Committee for the Ninth Judicial District of New York State, the Counsel for the Committee on Grievances for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, and the Counsel for the IOLA Fund of New York for their assistance and cooperation in the investigation.
This case is being handled by the Office’s White Plains Division. Assistant United States Attorneys Olga Zverovich, Vladislav Vainberg, and Daniel Noble are in charge of the prosecution.