Newark attorney Richard Roberts plead guilty to third-degree charges of perjury and theft by failure to make required disposition of property received in Morris County Superior Court Tuesday.
Roberts admitted to stealing $20,000 in client funds from his firm’s attorney trust account to make alimony payments. He also admitted to falsely testifying under oath that he hadn’t authorized those alimony payments to be made from that account.
An Office of Public Integrity and Accountability investigation from December 2012 to August 2013 found Roberts and his partner Gerald Saluti Jr. conspired to steal from their firm Saluti Law Group’s attorney trust account, eventually stealing just over $140,000 from four clients.
“Instead of upholding the law and acting with honesty and integrity, as was his duty as an attorney, Roberts stole funds from his clients,” said Attorney General Gurbir Grewal in a statement. “He betrayed his oath and the clients who trusted him.”
Roberts will be sentenced to up to 364 days in county jail along with probation, as per a plea agreement. He will also be required to forfeit his law license.
“I commend the attorneys and detectives who secured this guilty plea, which holds Roberts accountable for stealing funds from his clients,” said Director Thomas Eicher of the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability in a statement. “There are strict rules and fiduciary obligations concerning attorney trust accounts, but Roberts treated his firm’s trust account like his own personal bank account to pay alimony.”
Saluti pleaded guilty on Feb. 21 to a third-degree conspiracy charge, forfeiting his license and then paying $137,652 in restitution.
Roberts’ sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 29. Saluti will be sentenced Sept. 5.