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Tuesday, April 18, 2000

Attorney sentenced
for abusing clients’ trust

By Debra Barayuga


Saying Attorney Stacy Moniz's 15-year judicial career and service to the community "ought to count for something," his lawyer asked a federal judge to sentence him to the lower end of federal sentencing guidelines.

Despite federal public defender Peter Wolff's plea and letters of support, U.S. District Court Judge Alan C. Kay yesterday sentenced Moniz to the maximum 27 months in federal prison for violating his clients' trust and his "pervasive attempt to obstruct justice."

Moniz was also ordered to serve three years of supervised release after his release from prison and pay a $5,000 fine.

Moniz, 41, declined to address the court at his sentencing but said outside the courtroom he plans to appeal. Wolff could not be reached for comment.

The court found Moniz guilty on six counts following a jury trial in December, including failing to report the receipt of $15,000 from a client whom he represented in a murder conspiracy case in state court; directing a law firm employee to structure the deposit of the $15,000 to avoid reporting requirements; filing false income tax returns in 1993 and 1994; lying to the IRS about $36,000 received from a client, saying it was a loan; and claiming in bankruptcy proceedings that the client was a creditor, when she was not.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Muehleck said Moniz violated his oath of office by wrongfully withholding money from a client and committing perjury during his trial.

"An attorney's word under oath is his coin, his merchandise, his wares," he said.

Not only did the jury find that Moniz misled his clients, but he misled the IRS and lied to the jury, said U.S. Attorney Steve Alm. While most lawyers do an excellent job, Moniz abused his clients' trust and should go to prison for that, Alm said.

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