Reader David Deter alerted me to this story:
OT, CF, with Burt Hoffman under arrest, maybe you can comment on what you know of his career. I believe you've hinted at his integrity at least once before.
STAMFORD — A well-known former real estate lawyer has been accused of misappropriating more than $2 million from his attorney trust account.
Burt Hoffman, 75, has been charged with first-degree larceny and was released on a promise to appear in court.
Unlike other attorneys similarly charged, Hoffman was not accused by any of his clients. Hoffman, who was admitted to the bar in 1970 and had law offices with his son on Summer Street, got into trouble following a random audit of his Interest on Lawyers Trust Account.
The trust accounts are used when client funds are collected for many reasons, including home sales, retainers and personal injury settlements. State law prohibits co-mingling attorneys’ personal funds with their clients. Random audits of trust funds are conducted weekly throughout the state, Assistant Chief Disciplinary Counsel Beth Baldwin said.
Hoffman’s Attorney Bob Frost did not return a call for comment.
A February 2016 audit showed Hoffman’s trustee accounts were at a $1.5 million deficit, according to his four-page arrest affidavit prepared by Stamford State’s Attorney inspector John Forlivio.
The auditors listed five issues Hoffman needed to address, including hiring a bookkeeper, creating a proper ledger and an account for the negative $1.5 million.
A bookkeeper also found several questionable disbursements from client accounts to companies owned and controlled by Hoffman, the affidavit said.
Hoffman deposited a total of $2.1 million of his own money into his trustee account to cover the shortfalls that were “due to accounting errors, omissions and improper disbursements,” the affidavit said.
In November 2016, the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel filed a request to suspend Hoffman’s law license. In April, Hoffman resigned his right to practice law in the state and his resignation was accepted one month later by a Stamford judge who also assigned attorney Mark Henderson as a trustee over the accounts.
I don't know from nothing about the guy's client escrow accounts, but Hoffman was one of the most crooked attorneys I ever encountered in real estate, and I complained (and posted about) him for years. I was always reassured by my fellow attorneys that he was a solid guy, despite my catching him up in his lies, double-dealing and just outright fraud.
Let me more specific: Hoffman had a huge practice involving foreclosures and short sales, and he would pre-arrange sales to his own "clients", undoubtedly in exchange for a kickback. Offers from third parties would be buried, and never passed on to the foreclosing lender, although he'd promise that they had been. It got so bad that I refused to have anything to do with any sale involving the man, and I told my clients why. Apparently he was successful in pulling the wool over the eyes of his fellow attorneys because, as noted, they defended him as an upstanding guy. Those other lawyers were, and remain, good friends of mine who I know to be impeccably honest, so he clearly presented himself one way to them, and showed another face to the schleps who practiced in real estate sales.
I have no idea about the ethics of his son, the remaining partner at Hoffman&Hoffman, so I'll venture no opinion.