A 76-year-old lawyer who had been convicted once before for first-degree larceny has been sent to prison for two years for stealing $175,000 from another client.
Benson Snaider of Woodbridge, a condemnation and land-use lawyer in New Haven, resigned from the practice of law in November 2012.
At his recent sentencing in Milford Superior Court, Snaider was tearful and apologetic over his actions. He was sentenced to eight years, suspended after two, with five years of probation.
He also must make restitution to his victim, Jonathan Zuckerman of Shelton.
According to the New Haven Register, Snaider told the judge he had a good law practice for 50 years, and the world was “a rosy place.” Now, he and his wife are on Social Security. “Thank God, it’s there,” he said. Snaider put the blame on “human frailty.”
Suzanne Sutton, who is handling the ethics case for the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel, said her office will be looking into suspension or disbarment.
“Although I cannot comment at this time what discipline we will be requesting, I will say that unless there are extenuating mitigating circumstances of which I am not yet aware, I believe a 12-year suspension or disbarment is appropriate,” Sutton said.
Sutton said that Snaider was given a 12-year suspension for the earlier matter in Stamford, where he admitted misappropriating $800,000.
“Now that he has been convicted in the Milford matter, we will need to file another presentment for that misappropriation,” she said.
In the Milford Superior Court judicial district case, Snaider was charged with misappropriating $175,000 from Zuckerman. He was arrested on Nov. 16, 2012, by Shelton police after accepting a business check and depositing it into a Citizens Bank account for his own use.
In the earlier case, Snaider pleaded guilty to first-degree larceny in Stamford Superior Court in 2012, admitting to stealing client funds from the owners of Stamford’s Minchin Buick. He represented Minchin Buick in 2005 when it was being offered $300,000 for 2,547 square feet of the dealership’s land needed for roadway expansion. Snaider avoided prison, receiving a suspended sentence, according to court officials.
The state’s Statewide Grievance Committee suspended Snaider’s law license on Nov. 3, and Snaider’s resignation from the practice of law was accepted on Nov. 21.
At the time, Sutton said she was fine with Snaider getting another job, but not in the practice of law. “But we don’t want him to be a lawyer—that’s a public trust position that you just can’t risk,” Sutton said.
According to the New Haven Register, senior assistant state’s attorney Charles Stango said he spent many hours weighing Snaider’s career against the larceny.
“Snaider is a 76-year-old attorney with a 50-year record of doing the right thing,” Stango said. “I keep coming back to that.”
“He did it knowing the money wasn’t his to take,” Stango said. “What do you do with $1 million that’s not yours? What makes you think you should, could, do that? At what point do you say, ‘This is enough’?”
He asked the judge to send Snaider to prison for 10 years, suspended after four, with a right to argue for less time, according to the New Haven paper.
Also according to the New Haven Register, Zuckerman’s attorney, Edmund Collier of Milford, said his client did not want Snaider imprisoned.
“He doesn’t believe it does anything,” he said.