Holocaust hero lawyer struck off

A lawyer who won reparations for Holocaust survivors in the 1990s was disbarred in New Jersey after he swindled some of the very survivors he helped.

The New Jersey Supreme Court found that Edward Fagan had taken $350,000 from the accounts of survivors Gizela Weisshaus, Estelle Sapir and others without their permission to pay his bills. The court also reportedly froze his assets.

Fagan also was disbarred last year in New York on an unrelated case.

John McGill, the attorney who brought the case against Fagan 10 years ago, told the Swiss Jewish weekly, Tachles, that he was pleased with the outcome.

"After all these years, justice has finally triumphed," McGill said.

Fagan had participated in class-action suits in the 1990s against Swiss banks, German firms and other entities on behalf of survivors, helping win more than $1 billion for more than 30,000 survivors. He earned millions in fees, but told the court that he used the money to pay off debts and fulfill the terms of a $2.6 million divorce settlement.

The New Jersey Law Journal reported Wednesday that Fagan was found guilty of "knowing misappropriation of client and escrow funds," withdrawing money from their accounts without their permission and using it to pay the rent on his law office in New York.

Fagan had argued that he had not intended to betray his clients, but that his bookkeeping had been disorderly, partly through no fault of his own. But the court said Fagan needed merely to document any work he had done for which he had not been paid.

Fagan has brought 80 lawsuits since 2000, none of which has succeeded. Tachles reported that New Jersey court documents showed that Fagan owed more than $15 million to former clients and creditors who had backed his lawsuits.

    Last updated: 3:47pm, August 17 2009