Embattled real estate lawyer Kossoff battles trustee over records

United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. REUTERS / Andrew Kelly

  • Criminal defense attorney Walter Mack has asked a judge to quash the subpoenas of Chapter 7 trustee Al Togut.
  • Mack says his client is overwhelmed by Togut and his legal team

(Reuters) – Manhattan real estate attorney Mitchell Kossoff is pushing back attempts by the Chapter 7 trustee overseeing the liquidation of his law firm to obtain documents, saying his Fifth Amendment rights are at stake.

In one six page dossier On Wednesday evening, Kossoff’s criminal defense attorney Walter Mack asked U.S. bankruptcy judge David Jones in Manhattan to quash any subpoena that Chapter 7 administrator Al Togut has submitted to his client and d ‘Prohibit Togut from forcing Kossoff to testify.

Mack, a lawyer at Doar Rieck Kaley & Mack, argued that Togut was attempting to “strip Mr. Kossoff of his rights to assert his constitutional privileges not to self-incriminate and his due process rights protected by an attorney- client and work-product privileges and defend against criminal allegations made against him.

Kossoff appeared to disappear in April amid a spate of civil lawsuits from clients and others, although he has since appeared in several cases through a lawyer. The lawsuits include allegations that Kossoff failed to repay hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans. Kossoff’s mother, New York philanthropist Phyllis Kossoff, accused her son of forging his signature “in order to get millions of dollars.”

Kossoff’s firm, Kossoff PLLC, was forced into bankruptcy last month by a group of creditors who claimed the real estate law firm had embezzled more than $ 8 million in escrow funds.

Mack’s case on Wednesday clashes with Togut’s May 28 motion for a court order designating Kossoff as the agent in charge of his law firm and requiring Kossoff to comply with him. Togut, a law firm bankruptcy veteran at Togut, Segal & Segal, says Kossoff’s refusal to provide everything from bank statements and credit card records to client lists affected his ability to administer the estate.

Mack has repeatedly stated that Kossoff will cooperate if he is granted immunity from prosecution. But Togut argued that Kossoff can cooperate with the administrator while keeping his Fifth Amendment rights intact.

Investigators from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office investigated Kossoff PLLC and Kossoff himself, Mack reiterated in his Wednesday filing. He added that prosecutors seized his client’s documents, barring him from complying with Togut’s requests for documents anyway.

The debate over waiving Kossoff’s Fifth Amendment rights if he cooperates with Togut surfaced during a June 10 hearing before Jones over a separate subpoena order.

With his bank accounts frozen and Kossoff himself subject to a grand jury subpoena, Mack’s documents were intended to portray Kossoff as being overwhelmed by Togut and other lawyers for Togut, Segal & Segal.

“He does not have the resources to retain the services of an experienced bankruptcy lawyer, and he and his trustees are being sued by the Togut team of at least four experienced bankruptcy lawyers and from other legal staff at billing rates of $ 800 to $ 1,270 per hour, or so, “wrote Mack.

Togut did not respond to a request for comment.

The case is In re Kossoff PLLC, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 21-10699.

For Togut: Neil Berger, Brian Shaughnessy and Minta Nester of Togut Segal & Segal

For Kossoff: Walter Mack de Doar Rieck Kaley & Mack

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