H. James Pickerstein, a former top federal prosecutor in Connecticut and a popular figure among generations of state lawyers, was sentenced Tuesday to 30 days in prison for stealing more than $600,000 from a former client.***
Pickerstein, 69, faced up to 20 years in prison and 33 to 41 months under federal sentencing guidelines after pleading guilty in January to a federal fraud charge. He admitting that he stole $633,410.04 from James Galante, a former Danbury carting company executive. Pickerstein surrendered his law license in December 2014 after his theft came to the attention of his former law firm and federal prosecutors.
Dozens of friends and attorneys were in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport to support Pickerstein, and nearly three dozen people, including former U.S. Magistrate Judge Holly B. Fitzsimmons, wrote letters to U.S. District Judge Victor A. Bolden attesting to Pickerstein's character and generosity to friends and colleagues in need.
Court documents show that Galante asked Pickerstein about the missing money and Pickerstein replied that it was for legal fees owed. In August 2014, Galante invited Pickerstein to his office. During the meeting, which Galante secretly recorded, he confronted Pickerstein about the missing money.
"I'm jammed up with my firm," Pickerstein responded, according to the government's sentencing memorandum. "I'm broke, [my son] hasn't worked; my wife's medication is $3,500 a month." He also asked Galante not to turn him in.
Pickerstein's law firm repaid Galante most of the stolen money, and Travelers Insurance repaid the law firm. As part of his sentence, Pickerstein must pay restitution to Travelers and others.
When it came his time to speak, Pickerstein apologized for his crime and to those he has hurt. He also thanked the dozens of people who spoke or wrote letters in support of him.
Meanwhile, if you are looking for something to watch on TV, check out the next episode of American Greed on Thursday May 19 at 10pm. It's an episode about the South Beach B-girls trial. From their press release:
The episode will go behind the scenes of the Bar Girls or “B-girls” fraud scheme in
Miami Beach, Florida. South Beach businessmen with ties to the Russian mob trafficked young, attractive women from Latvia and Estonia into the United States illegally on tourist visas. The B-girls’ mission: in teams of two, they hit the town, and lured male tourists into private clubs owned by the Russian mob. The B-girls encouraged their marks to binge drink vodka, and, once the men were sufficiently intoxicated, the B-girls made unauthorized charges – often totaling more than $10,000 in a single night – to the victims’ credit cards.
Records emerging from “Operation Caviar Beach,” the FBI’s undercover investigation of the scheme, show that hundreds of men were victimized and defrauded of more than two million dollars.
John Bolaris, a former meteorologist for Fox affiliate WTXF in Philadelphia, fell victim to the scheme during a trip to Miami Beach in March 2010. Over the course of two days, the B-girls and bar owners fraudulently racked up more than $43,000 in charges on Bolaris’ American Express credit card. Bolaris, who was interviewed for the episode, recalls seeing the time-stamped bar transactions on his Amex bill for the first time: “Every few minutes, $2,000, $3,000, $5,000, $800 tip, $700 tip!” Bolaris believes his signature was forged after he passed out, and that he was drugged when the B-girls gave him a vodka shot: “There’s not too much that goes on after that that I can truly remember.”