Tag Archives: lawyer

Disbarred Flushing attorney accused of stealing $34K in estate funds

| ctumola@queenscourier.com


A Flushing man found himself on the wrong side of the law after the disbarred attorney stole $34,000 in legal expenses while handling an estate intended for a convent, prosecutors said.

John Giordanella, 48, was arraigned last week in Queens Criminal Court, where he was charged with third-degree grand larceny and a violation of the judiciary law (practice of law by an attorney who has been disbarred, suspended or convicted of a felony), according to the Queens district attorney’s office.

Giordanella practiced law from 1990 until his disbarment on March 13, 2007, prosecutors said. But he allegedly not only continued to represent himself as a licensed attorney, but is also accused of stealing when he was hired by a Kew Gardens Hills couple to handle the estate of their deceased friend.

The couple did not know Giordanella was disbarred, and entrusted him to handle the estate, valued at $130,000. According to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, any money left over after expenses were to be given to a convent.

Giordanella was given six checks, totaling $34,247, for expenses, such as securing bonds, a probate “fast track” fee and estate taxes, between February 1, 2012, and December 31, 2012. Giordanella also asked for an additional $20,000 to secure a bond and $6,247 to pay estate taxes. The six checks were allegedly deposited into the accounts of Giordanella and his wife.

According to the district attorney’s office, the will did not require the filing of a New York State estate tax return since the value of the estate did not exceed $1 million. Also, there were no fees required and no bonds requested, and the only activity for the will was its filing in April 2014.

Giordanella faces up to seven years in prison if convicted. He was released on his own recognizance and ordered to return to court on May 6.

Anyone who may have been a victim or knows someone who may have been a victim of Giordanella should contact the Queens District Attorney’s Office at 718-286-5957.


Obituary: Longtime litigator and Bayside resident William Spanakos

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Longtime litigator and Bayside resident William Spanakos died on Aug. 11 at the age of 86, according to his family, after suffering a major heart attack the day before.

“He liked his work and he continued his job until the last minute,” William’s brother, George, said. “He always tried to help people through his job and in his personal life.”

William was a practicing attorney for over 50 years and had an office in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. He specialized in criminal defense but also served the Greek immigrant community in legal matters. He was one of seven sons and his parents immigrated from Greece.

He graduated from St. John’s Law School in 1953 and soon after that he opened a law firm in 1956 with his brother John, who died last year.

As a defense lawyer, William always rooted for the underdog, according to George.

“He was known for his charitable works,” his brother said, and in 1990 William established a scholarship fund in honor of his parents that serves to assist financially challenged individuals of Greek descent to become doctors.

William is survived by his girlfriend Sheila Silverstein; his children, Michael Spanakos, Stella Spanakos, Lillian Spanakos, Helen Spanakos-Weitman and Athena Spanakos-O’Riordan; and three brothers, George, Peter and Nick.



Sacco & Fillas: Committed to their clients

| tcullen@queenscourier.com


Elias Fillas was about to graduate Hofstra Law School and take the bar exam in 2001 when he met Tonino Sacco, who had begun his own practice about three years earlier. At the time, Fillas was considering an offer from a large corporate firm in Manhattan, he said.

After speaking with Sacco, Fillas said he was drawn to to the already-practicing lawyer’s knowledge and experience with different branches of the law.

Fast forward a decade and the law firm that Fillas went to work for — then only run by Sacco — is now Sacco & Fillas, with three offices and a team of experienced lawyers that look to help their clients to the full capacity.

The firm currently provides services ranging from personal injury to commercial business law to federal litigation.

Sacco, a New York University and New York Law School graduate, began working as a lawyer in 1990. Eight years later he set out to start his own firm based out of his native Whitestone.

A mutual colleague introduced Fillas to Sacco, and the timing was just right.

When Fillas joined Sacco in 2001, it was the two attorneys and a receptionist in a 500-square-foot office, they said.

On September 1, 2004, Fillas became a full partner. During these early years, they said they would normally work close to 15-hour days – something they still do today.

The pair did not simply do this out of a love of working; the 11 p.m. nights were to accommodate small, local business owners who would not otherwise have the time to see their attorney.

Since then, Sacco & Fillas has expanded to Jackson Heights — with services focused on immigration law — and Astoria, where they have a large client base.

“So within eight years we grew probably by over 1,000 percent,” Sacco said. “That was all by our industrious efforts.”

The Astoria office’s grand opening is set for June 28. The day’s celebration is two-fold: the launch of the new location, and the announcement that Sacco & Fillas and the Vallone & Vallone law firm, voted “Best of the Boro” by Queens Courier readers, are now affiliated with each other.

Sacco & Fillas chose to make Astoria the flagship office based on the number of clients they serve in the area, as well as the neighborhood’s boom.

“We have been representing the residents and the businesses of Astoria from our inception,” Fillas said. “And out client base here is continuing to grow, so Astoria was the perfect choice.”

The firm currently has 14 litigators and a staff of about 40 people. These lawyers, partners included, will normally circulate throughout the three offices, based on client needs and appointments.

Throughout the firm’s history, the partners have always put the client before themselves.

The firm’s Jackson Heights location focuses on immigration law and providing services to the various populations blossoming in the area.

The office, they said, came through a current lawyer, Maria Barnett, who was running an immigration help center in the area. The partners integrated with her to provide even more services to immigrants in need.

What separates the firm from others, the partners said, is the well-rounded knowledge of the firm’s attorneys. They specialize in personal injury, real estate, leasing, commercial litigation, business law, wills, trusts and estates, criminal law, worker’s compensation, bankruptcy and immigration.

The expansion of the law firm is based on the needs of the community they serve. Once a need is identified, Sacco & Fillas will develop a practice group consisting of experienced attorneys and support staff to address the client’s specific needs.

“The fact that we are eclectic allows us to handle all of our clients’ needs,” said Fillas. “For example, a client had been in a serious car accident. The firm obtained a significant recovery for him, which he used to purchase a home for his family. We were able to handle the closing, and then made sure he had the proper estate plan in effect.

“Subsequently, he had issues with his tenant, which we resolved, and also had a family member who was arrested. The client was very impressed that we handled all these matters and produced favorable outcomes in each of the cases.”

He is still their client today, they said.

The partners also highlighted that they have never really had to advertise their firm or their services. Rather, they said the large client base has come from word of mouth by other clients who have been satisfied with their services.

“I think we kind of pride ourselves on how much we’ve grown in our eight years together,” Fillas said. “We have serviced over 10,000 cases. It’s all been word-of-mouth referrals.”

Sacco and Fillas said they want to make themselves readily available to clients for whatever the need may be. This includes being on call practically around the clock, they said, sometimes getting calls at 2 a.m. because of an accident or an arrest.

But the relationship extends beyond the courtroom. It’s a friendship that has formed over the last decade through the countless cases they have overseen and the long hours put in.

Now, they consider each other relatives as much as they are partners. It is a friendship that no litigator could object to.

“At this stage I consider Tony family and vice versa,” Fillas said.

“Its’ a rare occasion when we’re not on the same page,” Sacco echoed. “We work in rhythm with each other… and together the bond and strength that we have has produced a tremendous amount of results in the last 10 years.”

After growing in the few years – since the firm became Sacco & Fillas – all evidence points to a legal team that has made itself available to its clients, founded on the principles of hard work and dedication that they try to implement in the culture of the office.

Next up for the team is a Manhattan location in the Financial District, they said. According to the partners, the locale would provide better access to clients who may live or work there or in Brooklyn.

The partners pledge one thing will remain constant — their dedication to the communities they serve and the quality of legal services they provide.


NYPD officer Peter Figoski shot & killed by robber in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn

| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

NYPD officer Peter Figoski shot & killed by robber in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn

A city police officer was shot in the face and killed while responding to a call of a robbery in Brooklyn early Monday, authorities said. Officer Peter Figoski was hit once as he stood at the bottom of a staircase that led from the street to a basement apartment at 25 Pine Street in Cypress Hills. “The officer interrupted a burglary-robbery in progress,” said Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne, the NYPD’s top spokesman. “It looks like the gunman may have surprised the officer. As the officer entered the location, he was shot by the gunman.” The tragic incident occurred about 2:15 a.m. Figoski was rushed to Jamaica Hospital but could not be saved. Read More: Daily News

Long Island City bank robber panicked after he fired his gun at the ceiling 

The FBI is hunting for a gun-toting bank robber, who was caught on camera after he fired a shot into the ceiling of a Queens bank to prove he meant business but left without a cent. The bandit, dressed in a dark colored cap, dark framed glasses and a dark jacket and black leather gloves, walked into the HSBC bank on 43rd Avenue near 22nd Street in Long Island City, shortly before 9 a.m. on Wednesday, said authorities.  Read More: Daily News

Ex-Officer Kills His Wife, a State Tax Agent, in Queens, the Police Say

A state tax agent who specialized in investigating the trafficking of illegal cigarettes was shot to death by her husband, a former New York police officer, the authorities said on Sunday. The body of the investigator, Tracey Young, 42, was discovered by the police and paramedics shortly after 11 p.m. Saturday in her apartment on the eighth floor of 143-41 84th Drive, in Briarwood. She had been shot several times in the head and torso, and was pronounced dead at the scene. Read More: New York Times

TSA Passenger Advocates Sought By New York Lawmakers

Two New York lawmakers have called for a passenger advocate at airports to immediately act on complaints by passengers over security screenings. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and state Senator Michael Gianaris of Queens want the Transportation Security Administration to create the position at all airports. The proposal, released Sunday, was prompted by an elderly woman’s recent claims that she was strip searched by security officials at Kennedy Airport, which the TSA denies, saying it doesn’t conduct strip searches. Others have since made similar claims. Read More: Huffington Post

Meeks’ money man eyes plea deal

A Queens businessman who once gave Congressmember Gregory Meeks $40,000 is negotiating a plea deal with federal authorities in Brooklyn, according to court records obtained by The Post. The “extensive plea negotiations” are scheduled to stretch into the end of February, leaving some to wonder if Meeks pal and Guyanese-born developer Edul Ahmad is helping the feds with other targets. “That’s a lot of time to negotiate a plea,” said a New York criminal lawyer not connected with the case. “The feds must think there are bigger fish they can catch.” Read More: New York Post

Lying lawyer slapped

A Queens lawyer has been suspended for six months for falsely accusing a New Jersey state trooper of using anti-Semitic slurs against him, according to a ruling released yesterday. Attorney Elliott Dear said he made up the outrageous allegations in hopes of getting out of a speeding ticket. Court papers say the unidentified trooper pulled over Dear, an orthodox Jew, for going 84 in a 55-mph zone while driving with his wife in 2007. Read More: New York Post

Hero FDNY captain rescues badly-burned grandpa from burning Queens building

A badly-burned Queens grandfather was pulled from his smoke-choked bedroom early Saturday after his desperate son screamed at firefighters to rescue the trapped man. “My father! My father!” howled Patrick Bryan, 32, as the FDNY reached his burning Flushing apartment at 2:12 a.m. Bryan, his wife and their 5-year-old daughter escaped from the two-story apartment building — but 64-year-old Patrick James Rohan was lying unconscious in a rear bedroom. Read More: Daily News

Kew Gardens Fire Injures Four, Cause Unknown

Fire officials are looking into what sparked a fire Saturday that left four people injured in Queens. The New York City Fire Department says it broke out around 2 a.m. in the kitchen on the top floor of a two-story apartment building located at 147-19 75th Road in Kew Gardens. Family members say residents were forced to escape from a second story window. Read More: NY1

Queens Man Charged With Murdering Former Roommate

A Queens man was arraigned Saturday on charges of second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon in connection with the shooting death of a man on Staten Island. Armand Skrine, 34, is being held without bail. On Thursday, police responded to a call of shots fired on Steuben Street in Park Hill. There they found David Williams, 30, on the seventh floor of his building with multiple gunshot wounds. Read More: NY1