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“American Gangster” Attorney Richard Roberts Offered Prison Time
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Richie Roberts American Gangster

Summary: After allegedly stealing from four clients, two attorneys, one of which is featured in “American Gangster,” were offered plea deals.

A suspended attorney and his disbarred ex-partner were offered plea deals in response to accusations of stealing from four clients. Richard “Richie” M. Roberts, 79, who has since been suspended and his partner Gerald M. Saluti, 49, were featured in the 2007 crime movie “American Gangster” for their work in narcotic investigations. Now they are facing prison time.


Roberts and Saluti were accused of stealing roughly $140,000 from four clients. A grand jury returned an indictment against the pair in May. The ex-partners went before Superior Court Judge Paul Armstrong in Morristown in response to the charges. Their attorneys entered not guilty pleas on their behalf.

State Deputy Attorney General Cynthia Vazquez told Judge Armstrong that the men have been offered a recommended plea bargain of three years of prison time plus full restitution to the victims in exchange for guilty pleas. The pleas would be made to conspiracy to commit theft by failure to make a disposition of property received.

Roberts has already pleaded guilty to failing to pay payroll taxes and personal income taxes in a Newark U.S. District Court. Saluti was disbarred on May 17 by the highest state court for a number of ethical violations, including gross neglect, failure to safeguard client funds, and lack of diligence. He had already been disciplined multiple times by the state Supreme Court.

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Roberts was a detective for the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office and for the Federal Bureau of Narcotics before earning his credentials to be a lawyer, ultimately becoming a defense attorney in a private practice setting. As a detective, he led a task force the detained the famous gangster Frank Lucas. In the film “American Gangster,” Roberts’ character is portrayed by Russell Crowe. The film highlights the North Carolina-gangster’s criminal career smuggling heroin into the United States on American service planes returning from the Vietnam War.

Roberts’ attorney told the judge he will be using a forensic accounting firm to look into the funds in question. One former client, Ann Aarons of Ocean County, claims the partners took her deceased son’s life insurance policy.

The state Division of Criminal Justice accuses the attorneys of conspiring to steal over $140,000 from four clients between October 2012 and August 2013. The missing funds include settlement awards owed to clients and other funds the attorneys were supposed to hold in escrow or use towards payments on the clients behalf.  The AG office continues to state the attorneys went on to use the money to pay personal expenses such as credit card bills, entertainment expenses, and car payments. They specified that Roberts used $20,000 in stolen money for alimony payments.

The charges of hindering and perjury are regarding allegations that the attorneys told law enforcement and testified under oath that Gabriel Iannacone, the practice administrator for the firm, was solely responsible for the misappropriation of the attorney trust account funds. This statement was false since all three conspired together over the use of the money.

Ianncone already pled guilty in January to third-degree conspiracy to commit theft. His sentencing is pending.

The partnership, running as the Saluti Law Group, dissolved in August of 2013.

Do you think Roberts thought he could get away with committing a crime because of his experience as a detective? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

To learn more about attorneys that misappropriated client funds, read these articles:




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