Victims of Haddon Heights lawyer Dennis O'Brien, convicted in 2003 of stealing $2.7 million from clients, will receive a second round of reimbursement checks by the end of next month, the Camden County Prosecutor's Office said yesterday.
O'Brien bilked 39 people, many elderly or disabled, over several years, prosecutors said. One victim, an Audubon man with autism, lost $814,000 intended for his continuing care, they said.
O'Brien, 65, pleaded guilty to two counts of theft by unlawful taking and is now serving an 18-year sentence in New Jersey state prison.
The first round of reimbursement checks, issued in July 2005 for a total of $543,347, compensated 25 of the victims for at least 40 percent of their losses.
The $458,843 in reimbursements announced yesterday will bring compensation to 63 percent of what was stolen from the victims.
The checks will be released following approval by a Superior Court judge, probably on Jan. 18, said Mark Chase, assistant county prosecutor.
The 63 percent compensation for the 25 victims comes from the sale of real estate owned by O'Brien, which amounted to a little more than $1 million, Chase said. Among O'Brien's holdings were a condominium near the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, New Jersey rental and commercial properties, and land in Audubon.
Fourteen of the 39 victims previously qualified for $918,320 in payouts from the New Jersey Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection, created by state lawyers to protect clients bilked by attorneys. Compensation varied from 70 percent to 100 percent of the victims' losses, Chase said.
O'Brien took money from people who had named him guardian of their estates or entrusted other financial accounts to him for investment. He both deposited funds into his personal bank account and wrote checks directly from his victims' accounts, prosecutors said.
The largest theft was the $814,000 taken from the estate of Stanley C. Mich of Audubon, who left the money for the care of his autistic son, Ronnie, 65. Guardians were forced to sell Mich's house and move his son into a Voorhees home for the disabled, said Ronnie Mich's attorney, Eric Feldhake of Haddonfield.
Ronnie Mich's total repayment is expected to be $555,294. He will remain in the facility, and the recovered money will go to "maintain his quality of life," Feldhake said.
"We're just happy that the victims can see some restitution, and at the same time Dennis O'Brien was adequately punished," Chase said yesterday.