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Newark Lawyer Made Famous In 'American Gangster' Admits Stealing $20K

Richard Roberts
Richard Roberts Photo Credit: Attorney General's Office

A lawyer from Bloomfield who once ran a Newark law firm admitted he stole $20,000 from clients, the state Attorney General's office said. 

Richard Roberts, 81, pleaded guilty to perjury and failure to make required disposition of property during a trial this week in Morris County Superior Court. His former partner Gerald Saluti was testifying Tuesday when Roberts entered his plea. 

Roberts admitted taking the money from the firm's trust account in order to make alimony payments. He now faces up to 364 days in jail and must surrender his law license when he's sentenced in August. 

Roberts' former partner, Saluti, of Howell, and Roberts took funds totaling $140,000 in 2012 and 2013, authorities said. The money, which included settlement awards, was owed to four clients and was supposed to be held in escrow or was to be used for payments on behalf of the clients. 

Saluti, 51, who previously surrendered his law license and paid restitution of $137,652, is scheduled for sentencing in September. Prosecutors will ask that he receive probation.  

Roberts worked as a detective with an Essex County narcotics unit in the 1970s and helped bring down notorious Harlem drug kingpin Frank Lucas. 

A 2007 film based on Roberts' investigation of Lucas, "American Gangster," starred Denzel Washington as Lucas and Russell Crowe as Roberts. 

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