A former trusts and estates lawyer who worked at Barclay Damon until he was found to have been embezzling from clients and the firm has pleaded guilty to federal fraud and tax charges Wednesday.
Albert Hessberg III pleaded guilty in Albany federal court to one count each of mail fraud, wire fraud and filing a false tax return, prosecutors said. He agreed in his plea deal not to appeal any sentence of 11 years and three months or less, court records show.
Hessberg, 64, admitted to stealing money from client trust accounts, billing for work that he didn’t actually do, and taking fee payments that were properly owed to the firm for himself. He has paid back some $1.2 million to Barclay Damon, “as partial restitution and for distribution to his victims,” according to his plea agreement.
Connie Cahill, a partner at Barclay Damon, said in a statement that her firm was “shocked and disappointed” to learn of Hessberg’s misconduct last year, fired him, and reported his crimes to authorities.
“Today’s guilty plea brings a measure of closure to this matter and we want to thank the U.S. Attorney’s office and the FBI for their highly professional work in this case,” she wrote. “We are committed to working with Mr. Hessberg’s victims as they continue to pursue justice.”
Lawyer misconduct is nothing new, but Hessberg’s admitted crimes stood out because he had a longstanding affiliation with a sizable firm. He was also reported to be a prominent figure in the community, sitting on a number of local boards.
Hessberg had been a senior partner at Barclay Damon, a firm with several offices across New York and four out-of-state. Its website lists about 285 lawyers.
Sentencing is set for Sept. 5.
Hessberg’s defense attorney, E. Stewart Jones, did not return a phone call seeking comment.