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Press Release

Jersey City Attorney Sentenced to 66 Months in Prison for Wire Fraud, Aggravated Identity Theft, and Tax Crimes

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J. – A Jersey City attorney was sentenced today to 66 months in prison for defrauding his clients of more than $2 million dollars and other crimes, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.

James R. Lisa, 68, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty to a superseding information charging him with one count of wire fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft, one count of obstructing the IRS, one count of failing to file an individual income tax return, and one count of wire fraud while on pretrial release. U.S. District Judge Julien X. Neals imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.

“James Lisa used his law license to execute a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme and rip off clients who placed their trust in him. Then, after being charged for that fraud, Lisa committed another when, posing as his own lawyer, he sent a bogus letter to a lender that falsely described the status of his criminal case. Lisa’s multiple criminal acts were serious violations of his oath as an officer of the court and a betrayal of his clients’ trust. The sentence imposed today is his just punishment for these crimes.”

U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

In 2014, Lisa was retained by a family to help repatriate millions of dollars that had been transferred by other family members to offshore bank accounts decades earlier. Lisa was also retained to help resolve the tax issues related to the repatriation of the funds. In 2015, Lisa successfully repatriated more than $6 million of the family’s funds, but proceeded to falsely advise the family that the funds remained offshore. In 2017, Lisa provided $4 million of the repatriated funds to the family but continued to falsely represent that the remaining $2 million remained beyond his control.

Lisa falsely told the family that he successfully resolved the tax implications of repatriating the funds. In 2016, Lisa sent the family a fraudulent IRS “closing agreement” reflecting an agreement with the IRS for the family to pay $3 million in taxes and penalties for the repatriated funds. In 2018, Lisa sent the family another fraudulent closing agreement reflecting an agreement with the IRS for the family to pay $2 million in taxes and penalties because only $4 million was purportedly repatriated. In fact, the IRS never entered into these agreements and the IRS employees who purportedly signed the documents never did so. When one member of the family was audited by the IRS, the IRS issued Lisa a summons for records related to the family’s assets. In response to the summons, Lisa produced false and fraudulent documents suggesting that the IRS had agreed to closing agreements with the family.

In January 2023, Lisa was arrested after being charged with this fraud scheme and placed on pretrial release.  One condition of his pretrial release was that he not commit another crime.  In April 2023, Lisa committed wire fraud when he applied for a $22,000 loan. In order to obtain the loan, Lisa caused the creation and submission to the lender of a fraudulent document that purported to be a letter from the attorney then representing him in his criminal prosecution. Lisa caused the letter to be sent in order to defraud the lender about the status of the criminal prosecution so that the lender would approve the loan. 

Lisa also admitted that he failed to file individual income tax returns for tax years 2015 through 2022, and as a result, caused a tax loss to the IRS of at least $550,000. 

In addition to the prison term, Judge Neals sentenced Lisa to three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay $2.05 million in restitution to his fraud victims and $550,000 to the IRS.

U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents with the Office of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), Mid Atlantic Field Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Andrew McKay; and IRS - Criminal Investigation, Newark Field Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jenifer L. Piovesan, with the investigation leading to today’s sentencing.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Bender of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Camden.

Updated May 30, 2024

Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 24-205