Disbarred lawyer sentenced to prison after swindling clients out of nearly $600k: DA

brooklyn supreme court lawyer sentenced
A disbarred lawyer has been sentenced to up to three years in prison after he swindled dozens of clients out of more than $500,000.
Ajay Suresh/Wikimedia Commons

A disgraced lawyer has been sentenced to up to three years in prison after he stole money from more than two dozen clients in Kings County and fraudulently claimed pandemic-related relief funding. 

The defendant, 61-year-old Raleigh Douglas Herbert of New Jersey, swindled his clients out of $575,000 in settlement funds and the state out of about $96,000 in COVID-19 relief funds, said Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. Herbert pleaded guilty to scheme to defraud and grand larceny in Brooklyn Supreme Court in December.

“This defendant repeatedly violated his oath as an attorney and betrayed the trust of his clients by pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlement money and COVID-19 relief funds to which he was not entitled,” Gonzalez said in a March 1 statement. “Criminal conduct in the legal profession is unacceptable, and today’s sentence sends a strong message that it will be prosecuted vigorously by my office.”

district attorney eric gonzalez
The defendant pleaded guilty to multiple charges late last year, according to District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. File photo by Paul Frangipane

From 2015 to 2021, Herbert — then a practicing lawyer — handled wrongful arrest and personal injury cases against New York City. During that time, he embezzled nearly $500,000 from 16 Brooklyn-based clients by depositing settlement checks into his own account, then lied to clients about why they had not received their money. According to Gonzalez, Herbert used the stolen money to pay his own debts and on various other purchases. 

Herbert was arrested twice in 2022 on separate charges that were then combined into one case. On Dec. 7, 2022, he was arrested a third time after eight additional clients came forward claiming he had stolen $77,000 from them. 

The swindler continued to practice law throughout his arrests — he was suspended from practicing in New York State in 2021, but continued to represent a client in a wrongful death case against the city. Gonzalez said Herbert did not tell his client, who was set to receive a $750,000 settlement, that he had been suspended. Herbert was formally disbarred last summer. 

The Lawyer’s Fund for Client Protection has so far reimbursed about $470,000 to 16 of Herbert’s former clients.

“The theft of law client money is not only a crime, but a profound violation of the trust placed in lawyers,” said Michael J. Knight, executive director of the Lawyer’s Fund. “On behalf of the over 351,000 members of New York’s legal profession, the Lawyers’ Fund strives to restore that trust by reimbursing the financial harm caused by the statistically few in our profession who cause such losses.”