A former bankruptcy attorney who admitted to stealing millions of dollars from clients who were filing for bankruptcy has been sentenced to more than five years in prison, the U.S. attorney's office said.
Peter Ressler, 70, of Woodbridge, pleaded guilty to embezzling nearly $3.4 million from his bankruptcy clients and to related fraud offenses on Wednesday, according to state prosecutors.
He was an attorney with a bankruptcy practice based in New Haven.
Prosecutors said Ressler took retainers from at least 30 clients for various legal matters, including protection under Chapters 7, 11 and 13 of the bankruptcy code. Ressler promised he would hold the client's funds in trust but used the monies for other purposes.
Ressler would dissipate a portion of clients' assets and filed reports with false representation, which misled courts and the debtors of their true financial situation, state prosecutors said.
The U.S. attorney's office also said Ressler engaged in "work outs," where he claimed to try to resettle a client's debt with creditors without relying on the protections of bankruptcy. Ressler had promised clients to settle debts such as homes in foreclosure, disagreements with financial institutions or creditors, like the IRS, purchasing property and negotiating a loan modification.
Instead, Ressler used the money for personal and family living expenses, to cover expenses of his practice and to fund payments relating to other clients and bankruptcy estates where he previously misused funds.
In total, Ressler misappropriated at least $3.4 million in client funds.
The former bankruptcy attorney pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, two counts of embezzlement from a bankruptcy estate and one count of bankruptcy fraud.
Ressler was sentenced to 63 months in prison.