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Jersey City Attorney Sentenced to 66 Months for Defrauding Clients, Other Crimes

Jersey City

By: Richard L. Smith 

A Jersey City attorney was sentenced today to 66 months in prison for defrauding his clients of more than $2 million and committing other crimes, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.

James R. Lisa, 68, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty to a superseding information charging him with 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.

Fitness U.S. District Judge Julien X. Neals imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.

“James Lisa used his law license to execute a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme and rip off clients who placed their trust in him,” U.S. Attorney Sellinger said.

“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. The sentence imposed today is his just punishment for these crimes.”

According to court documents and statements made during the proceedings, Lisa was retained in 2014 by a family to help repatriate millions of dollars that had been transferred to offshore bank accounts decades earlier.

Lisa was also tasked with resolving tax issues related to the repatriation of the funds.

In 2015, he successfully repatriated more than $6 million of the family’s funds but falsely advised the family that the funds remained offshore. In 2017, he provided $4 million of the repatriated funds to the family but continued to falsely claim that the remaining $2 million was beyond his control.

Lisa further deceived the family by falsely stating that he had resolved the tax implications of repatriating the funds. In 2016, he sent the family a fraudulent IRS “closing agreement” that required them to pay $3 million in taxes and penalties.

In 2018, he sent another fraudulent agreement for $2 million in taxes and penalties, falsely representing that only $4 million was repatriated.

The IRS never entered into these agreements, and the purported signatures on these documents were fabricated.

When the IRS audited one of the family members, Lisa produced false documents to suggest that the IRS had agreed to these fictitious closing agreements.

In January 2023, Lisa was arrested and placed on pretrial release with the condition that he not commit any further crimes.

However, in April 2023, he committed wire fraud by applying for a $22,000 loan using a fraudulent document purporting to be a letter from his attorney.AdThe letter misrepresented the status of his criminal case to secure the loan.

Additionally, Lisa admitted to failing to file individual income tax returns for the years 2015 through 2022, resulting in a tax loss to the IRS of at least $550,000.