Cresci was waiting to talk to his attorney before responding, but several sources said the practice of court documents being signed by attorneys in these cases is common in order to process the claims more quickly. Three attorneys interviewed said criminal charges of this kind stemming from attorney/client disputes are very unusual.
Cresci represented his client on an agreement that he would receive one-third of the total settlement, plus expenses, and that his share came to $25,000.
Cresci has been accused of forging the signature of a client, allegedly taking $25,000 from a settlement fund, said Gene Rubino, spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office.
Rubino said Cresci allegedly took the money out of the account without informing his client.
The charges include forgery and theft by unlawful taking.
“These are third-degree felonies,” Rubino said.
Cresci was arrested on June 10 after representing another client in court and was processed at the Central Judicial Processing unit in Jersey City. Bail was posted at $20,000, but he was kept overnight because he was unable—according to sources close to Cresci—to produce his passport, which the court required.
The client, currently employed by the City of Bayonne—according to sources close to Cresci—filed the complaint against Cresci last December, a significant time after the case had been settled.
Financial disputes between client and attorney are usually resolved through a civil complaint that is reviewed by the courts, not a criminal complaint, several attorneys said. Those close to Cresci claim the charges were part of an ongoing dispute between him and the city.
Cresci and city were long adversaries
The current charges come after years of legal battles between Cresci and the city.
Cresci was fired shortly after the current administration came to power in 2008 when Mayor Mark Smith asked for a probe into alleged improprieties by Cresci, who also served as an attorney for the Bayonne Parking Authority. The city alleged that Cresci had given himself unauthorized raises and was apparently working two fulltime city jobs, one part-time job, and billing the city legal fees to defend the Parking Authority against a suit brought by a former employee.
The mayor’s request for the probe came two days after Cresci filed a suit against the Parking Authority in the U.S. District Court, claiming he has been the victim of reprisals by Mayor Smith through the Parking Authority executive director.
Town officials sent their claims to several state and county law-enforcement authorities for review, but Cresci was never prosecuted or convicted, and those close to Cresci claimed the charges were political retribution for his suit against the city—which also went nowhere after years of litigation.
Tax appeal issue
Cresci has also been accused by the owner of International Matex Tank Terminals of filing tax appeals for the company valued at more than $35 million without authorization from the company.
Paperwork submitted to the Hudson County Board of Taxation showed Cresci had filed an appeal, but in an April 8 letter from the IMTT owner, Cresci had not been authorized to file the appeal.
In response to these charges, Cresci issued a letter to the Board of Taxation on May 2, saying that he filed petitions for appeal on the 11 properties on April. 1, 2013, representing shareholders of the company, and that he believed that city officials urged the owner to file the letter with the tax board against him.
City Attorney Charles D’Amico wrote a letter to Cresci on April 29, 2013, saying that he had been contacted by James Coleman, owner of IMTT, to notify the city that IMTT had not hired Cresci to do the appeal.
Records show that Cresci filed 11 petitions on property owned by IMTT. The petitioner on each petition is MIC (McQuarie Infrastructure Corp) which, Cresci said, is a 50-percent owner of IMTT. The petitions were filed in the name of the shareholders, according to Cresci.
“We look forward to the Hudson County Tax Board’s actions on these matters,” Cresci wrote in his letter to the board.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.