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Jonathan David Ghertler needed only a telephone and a little moxie to impersonate partners at six large law firms on his way to defrauding the firms of more than $200,000. But Judge Robert L. Carter of the Southern District of New York said Thursday that Ghertler’s days as a pretend lawyer are over as he sentenced the Florida resident to serve 5 years and 11 months in prison. “You are not to assume the identity of any other person and you are not to solicit funds on behalf of, or in the name of, any other person,” Judge Carter told Ghertler. Ghertler, 40, pleaded guilty last January to mail and wire fraud charges as a result of a scheme to steal money from Washington, D.C.-based Arnold & Porter; San Francisco-based Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe; D.C.-based Piper Rudnick & Wolfe; New York-based Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; New York-based Sullivan & Cromwell; and New York-based Willkie Farr & Gallagher. The frauds began in February 2001, when Ghertler called up Heller Ehrman’s San Francisco office, identified himself as a partner at the firm’s Washington, D.C., office, and instructed the general ledger supervisor to wire-transfer $20,000 to a bank account as payment to the mythical law firm of “Dixon Stokes.” The supervisor complied after being told the money should be sent to “Dixon Stokes” as compensation for outside professional services performed for Heller Ehrman. Ghertler repeated the scam later that same month, persuading the director of finance at Willkie Farr’s Manhattan office that he, as a partner at the firm’s Washington, D.C., office, required a wire-transfer of $15,000 be sent to the Huntington National Bank for expert services relating to “Dixon.” Over the next four months, Ghertler pulled a similar scam on Arnold & Porter for $30,000, hit Heller Ehrman for another $40,000, Piper Marbury for $40,000, Skadden Arps for $65,000 and Sullivan & Cromwell for $25,000. STIFFER PENALTY Although defense lawyer Robert M. Baum asked that his client receive a sentence of 63 months under the federal sentencing guidelines, Judge Carter opted for a stiffer penalty, saying that he was not convinced Ghertler had learned his lesson, and that he was concerned Ghertler would continue to “ensnare and dupe people.” Saying Ghertler was “capable of more and more sophisticated violations,” Carter also ordered him to pay $105,000 in restitution upon his release from prison. He also ordered Ghertler, who is confined to a wheelchair because of a degenerative nerve condition, to participate in the federal Bureau of Prisons’ Financial Responsibility Program. But Carter balked when Baum asked that the judge recommend to the Bureau of Prisons that Ghertler be allowed to enter a substance abuse program. Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa Baroni said the request was “merely another ruse” by the defendant. She told the judge that successful participation in the program can make a prisoner eligible for release up to 18 months early. But the presentence report prepared by a probation official, Baroni said, “indicates the defendant hasn’t had a drug problem since the 1980s.” Baum said the presentence report noted that Ghertler has “a longstanding drug problem,” and he told the judge that “your recommendation only means” the Bureau of Prisons would consider Ghertler for the program. But Carter was unpersuaded. The judge said that allowing Ghertler to shorten his sentence by entering a substance abuse program would conflict with the judge’s intention of having the defendant serve a long term behind bars.

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