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Attorney Charged With Filing Fraudulent Lawsuits Under The Americans With Disabilities Act

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced the arrest today of STUART FINKELSTEIN on charges of mail fraud, aggravated identity theft, false declarations to a court, and obstruction of justice.  Specifically, FINKELSTEIN has been charged with stealing the identities of two individuals in order to file hundreds of fraudulent lawsuits pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) that those individuals never authorized.  In addition, FINKELSTEIN has been charged with making false declarations and obstructing justice in proceedings in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. FINKELSTEIN was presented today in federal court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida before Magistrate Judge Patrick Hunt.  

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “Stuart Finkelstein, a practicing attorney, appeared to be advocating on his clients’ behalf by allegedly filing lawsuits claiming they were unable to access public establishments due to ADA noncompliance. This was false. Not only did he allegedly fabricate the underlying facts of the lawsuits – the victims never actually tried to access the establishments – Finkelstein stole their identities and didn’t even represent them as an attorney. Finkelstein’s galling scheme, which was as profitable as it was brazen, allegedly netting him $930,000 in attorney’s fees, has come to an end. If you feel you may be a victim of Stuart Finkelstein, please avail yourself to the information provided below.”

According to the allegations in the COMPLAINT unsealed today[1]:

FINKELSTEIN is a lawyer who has filed, or has caused to be filed, over 300 lawsuits pursuant to the ADA on behalf of two purported plaintiffs, Victim-1 and Victim-2.  These lawsuits were filed in the United States District Courts for the Southern District of Florida and the Southern District of New York against various public establishments (the “Victim Public Establishments”).  Each of these lawsuits made representations that Victim-1 and Victim-2 were represented by FINKELSTEIN or an associate.  Furthermore, each of these lawsuits alleged that Victim-1 and Victim-2 attempted to visit the Victim Public Establishments, but were unable to do so because of those establishments’ alleged noncompliance with the ADA.  The lawsuits sought attorney’s fees and injunctive relief to address the alleged noncompliance with the ADA.

FINKELSTEIN’s lawsuits on behalf of Victim-1 and Victim-2, however, were fraudulent.  Victim-1 and Victim-2 neither retained nor authorized FINKELSTEIN to file ADA lawsuits on their behalf.  Contrary to FINKELSTEIN’s representations, Victim-1 and Victim-2 never attempted to visit the Victim Public Establishments.  Instead, FINKELSTEIN stole the identities of Victim-1 and Victim-2, made numerous false representations to the Victim Public Establishments and the courts in the Southern District of New York and the Southern District of Florida, obstructed official judicial proceedings, and then settled these fake lawsuits in order to collect approximately $930,000 in attorney’s fees.  

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FINKELSTEIN, 65, of Davie, Florida, is charged with one count of mail fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of twenty years in prison; one count of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory term of imprisonment of two years in addition to the sentence imposed for the mail fraud charge; two counts of obstruction of justice, each of which carries a maximum penalty of twenty years in prison; and two counts of false declarations to a court, each of which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.  The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of Special Agents from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

If you believe you were a victim of this crime, including a victim entitled to restitution, and you wish to provide information to law enforcement and/or receive notice of future developments in the case or additional information, please contact Wendy Olsen-Clancy, the Victim Witness Coordinator at the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, at (866) 874-8900, or [email protected]. For additional information, go to: http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/nys/victimwitness.html.

The prosecution of this case is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Unit.  Assistant United States Attorney Rushmi Bhaskaran is in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.        

 


[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint and the description of the Complaint set forth below constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

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