A once prominent Ocean County attorney known for his work representing senior citizens was sentenced Friday to 10 years in state prison after he admitted to stealing millions of dollars from his clients, according to New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.
Robert Novy, 67, of Brick, pleaded guilty on July 27 to first-degree money laundering, officials said.
Novy, who taught seminars on a specialty known as elder law, and also hosted a bi-monthly radio program called “Inside the Law” focusing on topics of concern to seniors, stole $3 million from at least 24 elderly clients, some of whom had Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, from 2009-2016.
“Novy preyed upon vulnerable seniors who trusted him as their attorney to guard their interests,” Grewal said in a release. “Instead, he callously stole their life savings, betraying their trust and the oath he took to uphold the law. We have secured justice with this lengthy prison sentence and have ensured that his victims will receive restitution from the assets we seized from him during our investigation.”
Novy must pay $4 million in restitution to his victims out of two funds; a $3 million one for client victims, heirs, estates and trusts already identified through the state’s investigation, and a second fund of $1 million to provide restitution, with court approval, for others not previously identified who come forward with proof that they were victims of thefts, the release stated.
He surrendered his license to practice law in the state and must pay $500,000 to the state as an anti-money laundering profiteering penalty, officials said.
The New Jersey Office of Attorney Ethics issued an ethics complaint against Novy in January 2016. He was arrested in October 2016.
Detectives executed a search warrant at his firm, Novy & Associates in Manchester, and seized billing records and other evidence, according to the release. The attorney general’s office obtained court orders freezing over $4 million in assets held by Novy and his firm.
Grewal said the investigation showed Novy stole funds from elderly and deceased clients who did not have a close relative to their estate or were not able to challenge his actions.
He used the funds – which he gained control of through wills, powers of attorney and trust documents signed by his clients – to pay personal and business expenses, according to the news release.
Grewal said Novy directed insurance companies to cash out annuity and life insurance policies and send the proceeds directly to him. When relatives or trustees challenged the withdrawal of the funds, Novy claimed they were “administrative errors” and repaid the funds, it was stated in the release.
Grewal said Novy used three different schemes to steal funds from his clients:
- The first involved transferring funds from clients’ personal bank accounts, or placing their liquidated personal assets, into his own bank account.
- In the second scheme, he transferred money from his victims’ personal accounts, or liquidated assets, into an Interest on Lawyer Trust Account he controlled rather than a trust fund he did not control, according to the release.
- In the third scheme, Novy transferred three clients’ funds into the law firm’s operating and disbursement accounts, according to attorney general’s office. He reportedly excessively billed the clients for power of attorney fees without any supporting invoices.
He was charged with money laundering because he engaged in transactions involving the stolen funds and the various accounts – primarily his attorney trust accounts and/or attorney business accounts – by which he concealed the source of the stolen funds and used them to promote his criminal activities, the attorney general’s office said.