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The Connecticut Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel is investigating Norton and Stephen Feinstein, father-and-son attorneys in Norwalk, Conn., in connection with as much as $2.5 million in missing client funds. State prosecutors and local police are also conducting probes of their own. The duo is accused of keeping proceeds from real estate sales that were intended to pay off mortgages. Norton Feinstein, 75, resigned from the bar in November and waived his right to reapply. His son, Stephen, 42, had his law license indefinitely suspended shortly thereafter. Norton Feinstein refused to come to the telephone when called by The Connecticut Law Tribune. He told the woman who answered the phone to decline comment on his behalf. Stephen Feinstein’s attorney, Nicholas Wocl of Tooher & Wocl in Stamford, Conn., said he couldn’t comment either because of the pending grievance issues and potential filing of criminal charges against his client. Chief Disciplinary Counsel Mark Dubois said the amount of missing client funds could range from $1 million to $2.5 million. “I don’t know at this point,” he said. “We’re still waiting for complaints to come in. People might not know if money is missing until they get a notice of default because their mortgage hasn’t been paid.” In November, Stamford Superior Court Judge Arthur Hiller appointed Robert Maslan, of Maslan, Brown & Associates in Darien, Conn., to be the trustee for the now-shuttered Norwalk law firm, Feinstein & Hermann. (Leonard Hermann is retired and didn’t practice there during the time the malfeasance is alleged to have occurred, according to Dubois.) The earliest instance of malfeasance that Maslan said he could determine happened in December 2003. It took the client in that case three months of persistent hounding to get his funds back from the Feinstein firm, Maslan said. More than 700 cases were active at the firm at the time of his appointment, according to Maslan. After reviewing them, and finding the firm essentially penniless, Maslan said he believes the two Feinsteins had been “floating” funds through their client trust accounts for years. The proceeds from newer mortgages would cover earlier debts, he surmised. “Eventually it caught up to them,” Maslan said. “They couldn’t get it straightened out. They’ve been doing this for a long time.” Maslan said he has no sense of where the missing funds are. He is in the process of studying back bank statements to track the distribution of money from the firm’s accounts. Located on Myrtle Street in Norwalk, “The office looks like a hurricane went through,” Maslan said. “It’s a real disaster in there. It’s pathetic what happened. It’s a real tragedy.” Dubois and Assistant Disciplinary Counsel Frank Blando have been working on the case. It first came to light in August when the Feinstein firm began bouncing checks written against its client trust accounts. An initial investigation determined nothing out of the ordinary, but the bad checks continued. Then came the phone calls from the title companies, claiming that mortgages weren’t being paid. “Questions were being asked and [the Feinsteins] had no answers,” said Dubois. One title insurer, Rocky Hill-based Connecticut Attorneys Title Insurance Co. (CATIC) complained directly to Chief State’s Attorney Christopher Morano. Dubois said what happens next in the case depends largely on Morano’s office. A spokesman for Morano said the office would have no comment on the pending investigation. Dubois said his office is no longer focusing on Norton Feinstein because of his resignation from the bar. “We are still figuring out what we will do with regards to Stephen Feinstein,” Dubois said. The missing Feinstein funds, Maslan said, basically fall into three categories: closings, estates and unpaid fees to professional witnesses. The latter, he said, is probably about $15,000. Money missing from estates, the trustee said, is a “real sleeper.” After property was sold from the estates the firm was handling, the funds would be held back for potential tax liabilities, and then disappear, said Maslan, who has already identified close to $400,000 in missing estate funds. A further complication for Maslan is Stephen Feinstein’s work as a special public defender in Norwalk. “There is no way to figure out who is due in court when,” Maslan said, because the office had no computerized files. Local criminal, civil and probate judges have granted continuances in all known cases so clients can obtain new counsel, he added.

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