The $788,000 in the Hunton & Williams retirement account belonging to a former partner who pleaded guilty to multiple criminal counts must be forfeited to the government, despite his ex-wife’s claims to the money, a federal court in Massachusetts said.
Scott Wolas was a partner at the firm in New York from 1985 to 1995. After he participated in a pyramid scheme defrauding investors out of $100 million, he took off and was a fugitive for over 20 years.
Wolas’ wife, Cecily Sturge, moved to Florida and got a divorce in 2001, but she kept in contact with Wolas. During the divorce proceedings, Sturge said she and Wolas had no assets to be distributed, although Hunton & Williams said she inquired about the retirement account in 1997 and 2000.
A third party had Wolas declared legally dead in Florida in 2011, and in 2014 Sturge contacted the firm again about the plan.
In 2017, with Wolas’s help, Sturge obtained a court order in Florida transferring all the proceeds in the account to her.
From 2014 to 2016, Wolas, who was living in Massachusetts under a false name, defrauded investors out of another $1.9 million. He was arrested in April 2017 and pleaded guilty in June 2018.
The government requested the funds in Wolas’s Hunton & Williams account be forfeited. Sturge’s claim that she had a superior claim to them was rejected by Chief Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.
The retirement account belonged to Wolas because Sturge failed to make a claim to any of it during the divorce proceedings, the court said.
The transfer of the funds to Sturge was also fraudulent, the court said. The government was a creditor of Wolas, he made the transfer with the intent to defraud his creditors, it was made without receiving anything of equal value, and, because of his crimes, he should have known he had debts he couldn’t pay, it said.
The firm is now known as Hunton Andrews Kurth.
The case is United States v. Wolas, 2021 BL 53968, D. Mass., 17-10198-FDS, 2/16/21.