U.S. District Judge Alfred Covello

 

A federal judge sentenced a former New Haven bankruptcy attorney to 63 months in prison and three years’ probation Friday for embezzling millions of dollars from clients.

Following numerous victim impact statements in U.S. District Court in Hartford, Judge Alfred Covello also ordered 70-year-old Peter Ressler to pay more than $4 million in restitution.

Ressler, who must report to prison Jan. 15, 2018, pleaded guilty in June to one count of wire fraud, two counts of embezzlement from a bankruptcy estate, and one count of bankruptcy fraud. Ressler was a former partner with Groob, Ressler & Mulqueen in New Haven, which touts itself as one of the state’s oldest bankruptcy firms.

Ressler’s conduct equated to a “Ponzi scheme,” prosecutors said in the plea agreement.

Ressler, a Woodbridge resident, took retainers from at least 30 clients earmarked for bankruptcy and tax matters, prosecutors said. Ressler told clients he would hold the funds in trust until he provided legal services.

Instead, Ressler used the money for personal and family expenses, business expenses, and to repay other clients he previously took money from, prosecutors said.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Connecticut alerted the U.S. Attorney’s Office after it identified potential criminal conduct by Ressler in at least two cases, prosecutors said. There were at least 10 businesses that entrusted Ressler with hundreds of thousands of dollars as they worked their way through Chapter 11 reorganizations.

Ressler, who had been out on a $100,000 bond since his arrest in April 2016, was admitted to the Connecticut bar in 1973. He resigned in March 2016.

William F. Dow III, a senior partner with Jacobs & Dow in New Haven, represented Ressler. Dow wasn’t available for comment late Friday.

The matter was investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Schmeisser, who was also not available for comment.