PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced that Neil I. Mittin, age 64, of Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania was charged by Information with one count of mail fraud. The defendant was an attorney who worked for approximately 38 years as an associate for a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania law firm (“the Law Firm”). The Law Firm specialized in representing plaintiffs in personal injury matters while also representing individuals in other types of legal matters.
As detailed in the Information, over the course of approximately a decade, from 2008 through 2018, Mittin engaged in a scheme to steal numerous personal injury and other legal matters from the Law Firm by removing them from the Law Firm and referring them to outside attorneys. The clients of the Law Firm whose matters Mittin stole did not ask him to refer their matters to outside attorneys, and often did not know or understand that Mittin was referring their matters to outside attorneys. The defendant concealed his conduct from the Law Firm by closing the files for those matters and making it appear in the records of the Law Firm that there was no settlement or resolution and that the cases were not viable.
Following the fraudulent referrals, the other outside attorneys to whom Mittin referred these matters then undertook the representation of the former clients of the Law Firm and attempted to resolve the matters with a settlement or a trial. If the matter was resolved successfully, those attorneys paid Mittin a referral fee, on average, of between 33 and 40 percent of the contingency fees obtained by the attorneys plus reimbursement of the costs incurred by the Law Firm before Mittin had referred the cases to the other attorneys. The defendant pocketed the payments from the outside firms, including the reimbursement for costs incurred by the Law Firm, and did not disclose to the Law Firm that the matters were resolved in this fashion.
The personal injury and other legal matters that the defendant referred to other lawyers generated approximately $10,800,000 in financial recoveries for the former clients of the Law Firm. As a result of this scheme, Mittin defrauded the Law Firm of approximately $4,200,000 in legal fees and costs, including the share of those fees and costs that he obtained from the outside lawyers.
“Attorneys of any kind, public or private, take an oath to act in accordance with the law – they are and should be held to a high standard of conduct,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “As alleged, the defendant defrauded his employer of millions of dollars, which is illegal conduct for an employee in any line of work, but is especially egregious for a lawyer.”
“Mittin allegedly diverted millions of dollars of business from his longtime employer, for his own benefit,” said Michael T. Harpster, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “Anyone willing to break the law and commit such fraud will be investigated and properly held accountable.”
If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and is being prosecuted by Deputy United States Attorney Louis D. Lappen.
An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.