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June 29, 2009 12:26 PM

Former Latham Partner Gets 15 Months for Billing Fraud

Posted by Susan Beck

If you've ever been tempted to slip a personal lunch into your business expenses, stop and think about Samuel Fishman. The former New York partner at Latham & Watkins last Friday was sentenced by federal district judge Victor Marrero to 15 months in prison, a $10,000 fine, and $350,000 in restitution, for doing that and more. The 51-year-old partner engaged in billing expense deceptions like this repeatedly over a 12-year period from 1993 to 2005, according to government filings. The Wall Street Journal Law Blog reported Fishman’s sentencing in this article.

"I wish I could find the words to adequately express how profoundly sorry I am for my disgraceful conduct," Fishman reportedly said at his sentencing Friday, according to the Law Blog. "I am so ashamed. I am so ashamed for what I did. I bear tremendous guilt."

You might say that Fishman nickeled and dimed his way to more than a year in prison. His scheme wasn't grand; instead he sought reimbursement for such items as meals and parking that weren’t proper business expenses. Over twelve years those items added up to more than $200,000, according to the government’s filings. He also inflated other legitimate costs by more than $100,000, the government maintained. 

When Latham discovered Fishman's ploy, it fired him, and reported him to the authorities. (The firm also reimbursed the clients who were charged with these expenses.) The government filed criminal charges against the lawyer in March 2008, and he pled guilty that same month. Here's an earlier New York Law Journal article about his plea. Fishman's sentencing was repeatedly delayed so that the government could conduct a psychiatric evaluation of the lawyer, according to court documents. The government stated in letters to Judge Marrero that it expected the lawyer to claim diminished capacity as grounds for a lighter sentence.

It's not clear, however, if Fishman did make that claim, since the parties’ sentencing memos are not publicly available.

We called Fishman's lawyers--Jack Litman and Richard Asche of New York's Litman, Asche & Gioiella--as well as assistant U.S. attorney Sarah Lai, but have not heard back yet. We'll update our post if and when we hear back.

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