Nearly 50 people who claim to have been bilked out of millions of dollars by
a Luzerne County lawyer will receive $3.25 million from a fund established by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that is supported by attorney registration fees, the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts announced Wednesday.
The 47 claimants, who were clients and investors allegedly taken advantage of by Wilkes-Barre, Pa. attorney Anthony J. Lupas, will receive the money from the Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security, which was created by the Supreme Court in 1982 to reimburse clients who suffered losses as a result of misappropriations of funds by the Pennsylvania-based attorneys.
The fund receives its financial resources from lawyers’ annual registration fees.
Lupas had told clients he would establish trusts on their behalf and act as the trustee with the promise they could either receive interest distributions from the principal or add the interest to the principal to grow their trusts, according to the AOPC.
To date, there is no evidence to support that any trusts were actually created, the AOPC stated.
The Citizens Voice newspaper in northeastern Pennsylvania reported in the spring of 2012 that the federal government had charged Lupas, who is in his late 70s, with mail fraud in connection with the scheme to swindle the clients of their life savings.
Prosecutors said that Lupas promised tax-free annual returns of 7 percent, but in reality he pocketed the clients’ money and recruited new victims to fund monthly interest payments to investors.
Lupas’ son, David W. Lupas, is a Luzerne County Common Pleas Court judge.
In May of last year, the Citizens Voice reported that an attorney representing Lupas in the Ponzi scheme case argued that his client was not competent to understand the charges against him.
The lawyer then pleaded not guilty on his client’s behalf.
The competency issue arose from supposed neurological injuries Lupas sustained after suffering a fail.
“The Lupas matter is one of the most egregious cases of attorney theft of clients’ escrow funds that I have seen in the 20 years that I have been on the Supreme Court,” Chief Justice Ronald Castille said in a statement. “Unfortunately, it appears that the client security fund will not be able to recoup the funds from attorney Lupas himself.
“Fortunately, the security fund, which is funded through Pennsylvania’s attorney registration fees, has sufficient reserves to cover claims up to $100,000 per claimant,” Castille continued. “Most of Lupas’ clients will receive coverage of the loss of their principal, but others will still feel the sting of Lupas’ criminal conduct.”
The AOPC reported that through this August, the Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security had approved awards against Lupas totaling $2,235,626.73.
Many of those awards have already been paid.
The board, during its September meeting, concluded that an additional 13 claims against Lupas worth more than $1 million were compensable.