By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK, Oct 17 (Reuters) - Former Crowell & Moring
attorney Douglas Arntsen was sentenced to between four and 12
years in prison Wednesday for stealing more than $10 million
from his clients.
Prosecutors had accused Arntsen, 34, of siphoning millions
of dollars from escrow funds into bank accounts he controlled,
beginning in 2009. Arntsen flew to Hong Kong in September 2011,
two days after he resigned from the firm and one day after the
Manhattan district attorney's office informed the firm that he
was the subject of a criminal investigation.
Prosecutors claimed Arntsen was attempting to avoid arrest,
while Arntsen's lawyer, Alan Lewis, said the trip was
business-related and had been planned for some time.
Arntsen, who pleaded guilty to grand larceny and scheme to
defraud in October, had been held without bail since January,
when he was extradited to the United States to face the charges.
In a tearful statement to Acting Supreme Court Justice Jill
Conviser in Manhattan, Arntsen apologized to his victims, to his
former colleagues at Crowell and to his family, saying the most
difficult thing for him to accept was the years he would spend
away from his young daughter.
"I'm so sorry for what I did, for the money I took and I
spent, for the trust that I squandered," Arntsen said, at times
struggling to finish his words. "As much as I've dreaded this
day, I've also longed for it. I am ready to take responsibility
for my actions."
The sentence, which Conviser had promised to Arntsen upon
his guilty plea, was slightly more lenient than the five-to-15
term prosecutors had recommended. But the judge on Wednesday
turned down Lewis's request to consider an even shorter
Prosecutors launched an investigation after one of Arntsen's
clients, Regal Real Estate, was unable to account for missing
That led to a whirlwind few days in which Arntsen allegedly
admitted to Regal that he stole the funds before boarding a
plane to Hong Kong, just as police were preparing to arrest him.
Regal's managing partner, William Punch, told Reuters last
year that Arntsen admitted to the theft when confronted on Sept.
12, 2011. Regal's lawyer, Bruce Lederman, said Arntsen spent the
next day with Punch, making stops at various banks, where
Arntsen withdrew close to $2 million that he gave to Punch.
He told Punch he had to fly to Hong Kong to get the rest of
the money, and they agreed to meet the following day, Lederman
said. Punch and Lederman alerted authorities, who waited for
Arntsen in order to take him into custody. Arntsen never showed
and instead got on a plane to Hong Kong alone.
Crowell previously settled three civil lawsuits brought in
connection with the fraud by real estate companies claiming they
The case is People v. Arntsen, New York State Supreme Court,
New York County, No. 01399/2012.
For the prosecution: Assistant District Attorney Sophi
For Arntsen: Alan Lewis of Carter, Ledyard & Milburn.
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