It’s odd that Joanne Schneider is credited with creating Ohio’s largest Ponzi scheme [“The $60 Million Pyramid
,” April 19, 2006]. After all, she hired attorney Ken Lapine of Roetzel & Andress, one of the state’s most prominent law firms, to advise her on the legality of her rather innovative methods of fundraising.
Even after the state sent Schneider a cease-and-desist order from issuing her IOUs, Lapine apparently never told his client to stop taking money from more than 700 investors, who she had no way of repaying. Instead, Schneider continued to collect investments, while Lapine’s firm raked in almost $1 million in fees.
Now Schneider faces 163 counts of fraud. And while Lapine has done his best to skirt responsibility, it doesn’t appear that his impressive array of Stupid Lawyer Tricks are working this time around. Receiver Matthew Fornshell, who represents Schneider’s stiffed investors, filed a lawsuit against Roetzel & Andress, accusing the firm of malpractice.
Until recently, Lapine has refused to reveal anything about his work for Schneider, claiming attorney-client privilege. But that all came to an end when Schneider waved said privilege, giving Lapine nothing else to hide behind.
After being deposed by Fornshell’s lawyer last month, Lapine is now invoking the Lazy Lawyer Defense. He says he never really scrutinized Schneider’s dealings, or bothered to see if she had the loot to pay back investors, even though he had her bank statements. It seems that Roetzel & Andress, $1 million in fees only buys you donuts and a little sucking up. It doesn’t actually buy any effort.
“To say that her counsel were not aware of every aspect of that project is just not based in fact or logic,” says Schneider’s attorney, Ian Friedman. “This has been Schneider’s position since day one, and now this is finally being revealed to everyone else.” – Denise Grollmus