Disbarred New Jersey lawyer Alexander Iler was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years in prison and ordered to make restitution for cash he stole from clients to bankroll his gambling addiction.
Iler, formerly a Red Bank solo, had pleaded guilty on Aug. 20 to crimes involving a real estate scam and thefts of funds amounting to $530,000.
In December 2011, he fraudulently transferred to himself a residence belonging to the estate of a deceased woman, whom authorities have not named.
Iler had been leasing the property from her under a rent-to-buy agreement, making monthly payments in order to ultimately purchase it. He was not living there but was planning to have the property renovated. Neither the woman nor the estate had been a client.
When he ran short on funds and was in danger of missing a payment, he forged the name of the estate’s executrix—the deceased woman’s daughter—and filed the deed with the Monmouth County Clerk’s Office.
The deed reflected a $575,000 sale price, though Iler provided no funds.
Iler then took out loans against the residence.
Around that same time, Iler stole $530,887 from eight clients over a yearlong period.
The thefts—ranging from $8,000 to $175,000—mostly came from funds held in Iler’s trust account, though some took the form of legal fees he collected without performing any work.
The thefts, as well as the loans, went to fund Iler’s addiction to casino gambling, according to his lawyer, Dean Schneider of Schneider Freiberger in Red Bank.
At least one ethics grievance was filed against Iler, who was temporarily suspended in May 2012 and disbarred by consent that July after admitting to knowing misappropriation of client funds.
Iler pleaded guilty to counts of theft of immovable property, theft by deception and theft by failure to make required disposition of property received. Most of the counts were second-degree offenses.
In a negotiated plea, prosecutors agreed to recommend an aggregate sentence of 12 years, though Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Francis Vernoia handed down the 10-year term.
As part of his plea bargain, Iler agreed to a lifetime ban from New Jersey casinos.
Iler, 39, who was admitted in New Jersey in 2007, had no previous criminal or disciplinary history.
The bilked clients have filed claims with the New Jersey Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection, and four have been reimbursed, Schneider says.
Schneider says the casino gambling problem had become very severe, with Iler losing large sums of money at a time.
“This wasn’t some guy who intended to permanently deprive these people of their money,” Schneider says. “In his mind, he believed he was going to pay everybody back.”
Assistant Prosecutor Andrew Fried of the Financial Crimes and Public Corruption Bureau, who prosecuted the case, provided facts but declines comment.
There was no public complaint filed in the ethics matter, says Assistant Ethics Counsel Timothy McNamara, who prosecuted it.
Robert Ramsey of Donini & Ramsey in Hamilton Township, who defended Iler in the ethics matter, did not return a call.
Iler handled some notable cases in his brief career, including State v. Holland/State v. Pizzo, a 2011 drunken-driving case in which the Appellate Division held that use of a less-expensive thermometer to calibrate the then-standard Alcotest device—rather than a pricier unit named in the Supreme Court’s State v. Chun decision—did not invalidate the reading.