United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Announces Participation in National Money Mule Initiative; Obtains Three Civil Injunctions Against Alleged Money Mules Involved in Lottery Scams
PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced that Neil I. Mittin, 64, of Huntingdon Valley, PA was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay $3.4 million in restitution by Senior United States District Court Judge Michael M. Baylson for his scheme to steal numerous personal injury cases and other legal matters from his law firm between 2008 and 2018.
The defendant pleaded guilty to mail fraud in September 2019. He worked for approximately 38 years as an associate for a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania law firm (“the Law Firm”). The Law Firm specialized in representing plaintiffs in personal injury and other types of legal matters. From 2008 through 2018, Mittin engaged in a scheme to steal numerous personal injury and other legal matters from the Law Firm by secretly referring them to outside attorneys.
The Law Firm clients did not ask him to refer their matters to outside attorneys and often did not know or understand what Mittin was doing. The defendant concealed his conduct from the Law Firm by closing the files for those matters and making it appear in the records of the Law Firm that there was no settlement or resolution and that the cases were not viable.
Following the fraudulent referrals, the outside attorneys to whom Mittin referred these matters attempted to resolve them with a settlement or a trial. If the matter was resolved successfully, the attorneys paid Mittin a referral fee, on average, of between 33 and 40 percent of the contingency fees obtained by the attorneys. The attorneys also paid Mittin a reimbursement amount for the costs that the Law Firm incurred before Mittin referred the cases out. The defendant illegally pocketed these referral payments and reimbursement costs and did not disclose to the Law Firm that the matters were resolved in this fashion.
The personal injury cases and other legal matters that the defendant referred to other lawyers generated approximately $10,800,000 in financial recoveries for the Law Firm’s former clients. As a result of this scheme, Mittin defrauded the Law Firm of approximately $4,200,000 in legal fees and costs, including the share of those fees and costs that he obtained from the outside lawyers.
“As officers of the court, attorneys are expected to uphold the law, but Mittin did just the opposite,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “He siphoned millions of dollars away from his firm for nearly a decade by stealing clients, covering his tracks, and lining his pockets with bogus referral fees and reimbursements for costs he never incurred. Today, he has been held accountable for his actions, and rightly so.”
“Neil Mittin diverted millions of dollars of business from his longtime employer, a firm where he worked for more than half his life,” said Tara A. McMahon, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “He cheated his colleagues, misled and poached his clients, and pocketed the proceeds in the form of referral fees. He’ll now be held to account for this decade-long, multimillion-dollar fraud.”
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and is being prosecuted by Deputy United States Attorney Louis D. Lappen.