A New York lawyer who siphoned money from an escrow account using his ATM card has been slapped with a three-year suspension by a state appellate court for that and other professional ethics violations.
Stewart David Pollak committed “serious professional misconduct” that reflects adversely on his fitness as a lawyer, the Supreme Court of New York’s Appellate Division Second Department, said in its Thursday opinion.
Those offenses were committed between 2014 and 2016, the court said.
Pollak misappropriated funds while acting as an escrow agent in a turnover proceeding, according to the panel. Entrusted with $200,000, he made thousands of dollars of disbursements against the fund over several months while the case was pending, including cash withdrawals using his bank debit card, it said. Pollak also commingled his own funds with those in his trust account.
All these actions violate the prohibition against commingling and misappropriating client funds or property, the court said.
It rejected Pollak’s explanation for his actions, which he attributed to depression and undiagnosed diabetes.
Pollak is a trust and estates lawyer who “was fully knowledgeable about the rules concerning escrow funds,” it said. It also noted his “far from unblemished” disciplinary history included fabricating a judicial decree.
Although Pollak displayed remorse and replaced the funds right away, a three-year suspension is warranted, the court concluded.
The case is Matter of Pollak, 2020 BL 52516, N.Y. App. Div., No. 2018-06614, 2/13/20.