Disbarred attorney guilty in swindle of clients

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

A disbarred lawyer pleaded guilty to four counts of theft by swindle involving the theft of more than $44,422 from clients, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Wednesday.

Ronald Resnik, 67, of St. Paul, will be sentenced on July 19. He is expected to be placed on probation for three years, serve 270 days in the workhouse, make restitution and never hold any sort of legal or fiduciary position.

“Mr. Resnik just doesn’t seem to learn his lesson when it comes to the proper handling of money entrusted to him by his clients,” Freeman said. “As a result, we are now making sure he cannot engage in that behavior again as a convicted felon who will spend time behind bars.”

In court Wednesday morning, Resnik represented himself and said he fully understood all of the legal protections he was giving up by pleading guilty.

Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Morgan Kunz led Resnik through the questions needed for him to admit the crimes he had committed. Resnik became an attorney in 1977 and was formally disbarred in December 2016. Resnick admitted he knew he was under investigation by the Minnesota Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility as far back as 2014.

That office had disciplined Resnik in 2001, 2011 and 2013. In each instance, the board found that Resnik had mishandled clients’ money, frequently by not keeping their money in a separate trust fund.

From May 2015 to May 2017, Resnik admitted that when clients contacted him at his Brooklyn Center office and asked him to represent them in criminal, civil or divorce actions, he would demand a $1,500 retainer fee but then fail to give them a written retainer agreement. Over time, he would say court dates had been changed, he needed to do more depositions or he had been filing motions in their cases and he would need more money to keep going.

However, the dozen clients eventually discovered he was lying and none of the work had been done. When they asked for their money back, he rarely returned it because most of it had been put in his personal account and it was spent on himself, Resnik admitted.

Most of the swindle in count four occurred after he was disbarred. Resnik admitted to taking money from clients and signing up new ones even though he could not represent them.

Criminal Complaint (PDF)