A prominent attorney from Jersey City went to great lengths to swindle $2 million from a family he represented, federal authorities charged.
The family had retained James R. Lisa, 67, to gather millions that had been moved into offshore bank accounts by relatives decades ago and to resolve any tax issues that arose as a result, they said.
Soon after being retained, he moved more than $6 million back into the United States but told the family the funds still remained offshore, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger said.
Lisa kept them waiting for two years before giving them $4 million while claiming the remaining $2 million was "beyond his control," Sellinger said.
He also lied when he told the family he'd resolved the tax issue -- and even produced a bogus signed document that was purportedly from the IRS, the U.S. attorney said.
It contended that they owed $3 million in taxes and penalties on the money, he said.
Lisa ginned up a second phony agreement in which the IRS purportedly knocked the tax hit, including penalties, down to $2 million because only $4 million supposedly had been repatriated, Sellinger said.
"In fact, the IRS never entered into these agreements and the IRS employees who purportedly signed the documents never did so," the U.S. attorney said.
Nicknamed "King James," Lisa was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 1984 and has specialized in defending white-collar criminals. Now he's accused of being one.
Lisa was charged with three counts of wire fraud and four counts of aggravated identity theft in an indictment returned by a grand jury in U.S. District Court in Newark on Thursday, Jan. 12.
A federal judge subsequently released him on $100,000 unsecured bond via videoconference that afternoon.
Sellinger credited special agents with the Office of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration's Mid Atlantic Field Division and IRS - Criminal Investigation's Newark Field Office with the investigation leading to the charges.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Bender of his Camden office is handling the case.
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