Richard Goldberg, two of his former secretaries, a bank and an insurance company were ordered to pay.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A North Jackson woman and her family, who were among those bilked by suspended attorney Richard D. Goldberg, have been awarded more than $1.5 million.
Judge Timothy P. Maloney of Mahoning County Probate Court ruled this week that Regina Musser and her children are due the money that Goldberg withheld from them as part of a wrongful death lawsuit settlement.
The money must be paid by Goldberg, two of his former secretaries, National City Bank of Youngstown and CNA Insurance Companies of Independence, Ohio.
Musser won a $1.8 million judgment in 1998 stemming from the death of her husband, Alfred. Goldberg represented her in the civil lawsuit, filed in common pleas court.
What happened: When the settlement check arrived from the insurance company, two of Goldberg's secretaries, Patricia Gonci and Mary Monus, forged Mrs. Musser's signature on it and other settlement documents, at Goldberg's instruction. Musser was not told of the check's arrival and did not consent to the forgery.
Gonci and Monus testified in probate court hearings last year that it was common for secretaries to forge clients' signatures on checks and court documents, always at Goldberg's instruction.
They did it by holding an authentic signature against a backlighted surface -- usually a window or a light table used for reading X-rays. They would then place an unsigned document over the authentic signature and trace the client's name onto it.
According to court records, Goldberg distributed $740,000 of the settlement to the Musser family and kept the rest for his attorney fee, which was not approved by the probate court. He deposited the money in a trust account at NCB.
Ruling: Judge Maloney ruled that the Mussers should receive $1,056,126, which is the amount Goldberg wrongly kept. With interest and penalties, the total award is $1,534,974.
Goldberg, Gonci and Monus were found guilty by Judge Maloney of concealing and embezzling money from the estate, while the bank and insurance company were found to have "conveyed or possessed" money that should not have changed hands because of the forged documents.
Atty. Jerry Bryan, who represents NCB, had not seen the ruling and declined to comment. Lawyers for the insurance company could not be reached.
Sentence: Goldberg, 56, of Liberty Township, is serving a federal prison sentence for defrauding clients out of some $4.5 million. He was originally sentenced to 41 months, but an additional 16 months was tacked on in April because authorities found that he'd diverted assets that should have been liquidated to pay back his victims.
He's also facing a 21-month sentence in the county jail after he completes the federal sentence. Judge Maloney imposed the local sentence after finding Goldberg in contempt of court for concealing assets.
A county grand jury indicted him in March on three counts of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, 20 counts of forgery, six counts of theft and two counts of taking the identity of another. He faces 83 years in prison if convicted.