An attorney from the Garden State has admitted defrauding his clients of more than $2 million dollars along with other crimes.

On Friday in Newark federal court, 68-year-old James R. Lisa of Jersey City pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft, one count of obstructing the IRS, one count of failing to file an individual income tax return, and one count of wire fraud while on pretrial release.

Federal authorities say in 2014, Lisa was retained by a family to help repatriate millions of dollars that had been transferred by other family members to offshore bank accounts decades earlier. Lisa was also retained to help resolve the tax issues related to the repatriation of the funds.

The following year, he successfully repatriated more than $6 million of the family’s money but proceeded to falsely advise the family that the funds remained offshore.

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In 2017, he gave $4 million to the family but continued to falsely represent that the remaining $2 million remained beyond his control.

Lisa then falsely told the family that he successfully resolved the tax implications of repatriating the money.

In 2016, Lisa sent the family a fraudulent IRS 'closing agreement' reflecting an agreement with the IRS for the family to pay $3 million in taxes and penalties for the repatriated funds. In 2018, Lisa sent the family another fraudulent closing agreement reflecting an agreement with the IRS for the family to pay $2 million in taxes and penalties because only $4 million was purportedly repatriated. In fact, the IRS never entered into these agreements and the IRS employees who purportedly signed the documents never did so.

When one member of the family was audited by the IRS, they issued Lisa a summons for records related to the family’s assets. In response to the summons, Lisa produced false and fraudulent documents suggesting that the IRS had agreed to closing agreements with the family.

This past January, Lisa was arrested after being charged in this scheme and placed on pretrial release.

Gerasimov174 GettyImages
Gerasimov174 GettyImages

One condition of his pretrial release was that he not commit another crime.

In April, Lisa allegedly committed wire fraud when he applied for a $22,000 loan.

In order to obtain the loan, Lisa caused the creation and submission to the lender of a fraudulent document that purported to be a letter from the attorney then representing him in his criminal prosecution. Lisa caused the letter to be sent in order to defraud the lender about the status of the criminal prosecution so that the lender would approve the loan.

Lisa also admitted that he failed to file individual income tax returns for tax years 2015 through 2022, and as a result, caused a tax loss to the IRS of at least $550,000.

U.S. Attorney Philip Sellinger said in a statement,

James Lisa used his law license to execute a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme and rip off clients who placed their trust in him. Then, after being charged for that fraud, Lisa committed another when, posing as his own lawyer, he sent a bogus letter to a lender that falsely described the status of his criminal case. Lisa’s multiple criminal acts were serious violations of his oath as an officer of the court and a betrayal of his clients’ trust. He will now face justice for these crimes.

Lisa now potentially faces decades behind bars along with huge financial penalties.

Sentencing is scheduled for January 25th.

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