A Rockville Centre attorney was sentenced to one year in prison last week after stealing $177,000 from a client in 2015.
Paul Vesnaver, 59, of Long Beach, pleaded guilty on September 21 before Judge Robert Bogle to third-degree grand larceny, a felony. Judge Bogle sentenced him on April 5 to one year in jail, and ordered him to pay restitution in the amount of $157,000. The defendant had paid his former client $20,000 in restitution at the time of his sentencing.
“Lawyers have a duty to represent their client’s interests, and when they steal from them, we will hold them criminally accountable,” Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said.
Singas said Vesnaver, whose practice was in Rockville Centre, represented a client in a personal injury case in August 2015. When the matter was settled, a settlement check for $287,500 was made payable to the client and the defendant. A letter from the defendant to the client — dated September 4, 2015 — stated the amount due to his client after attorney fees and disbursements was $189,000. The letter also stated there were third party liens against the proceeds, which totaled $177,000, leaving about $12,000 for the client. A check for that amount was enclosed with the letter.
The client later discovered the lien parties were never paid, and the defendant kept the $177,000 for himself. The defendant said he was withholding the money from the victim in order to pay the lien holders, but actually used it for fees and settlement proceeds for attorneys in unrelated cases. By February of 2016, there were no funds left in the account.
Vesnaver was disbarred on June 29, 2016 for reasons unrelated to this case. The Nassau County D.A.’s office received the case in August of that year, and investigators arrested the defendant on Feb. 24, 2017.