Jonathan Bristol, a former partner at Winston & Strawn LLP in New York, pleaded not guilty in a Manhattan court yesterday to charges of laundering more than US$20 million through two firm escrow accounts to allegedly help Kenneth Starr, a former lawyer, defraud his celebrity clients.
Prosecutors allege that Mr. Bristol used the accounts to receive funds belonging to Starr clients in 2009 and in 2010 and then transferred that money to Starr’s firm to pay operating expenses. Bristol was arrested yesterday following a criminal indictment. In Court, he repeatedly broke down in tears during the hearing and was released on a US$1 million bond. He faces 20 years in prison if convicted of money laundering.
The SEC separately brought civil charges against Bristol yesterday, alleging that he helped Starr commit fraud by allowing more than US$25 million in client funds to flow through Winston & Strawn trust accounts, which was then transferred to Starr and his companies for his own personal use.
“Bristol had a legal and professional responsibility not to assist Ken Starr in conduct that he knew was unlawful,” said George S. Canellos, Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office.
“Bristol crossed the line from lawyer to conspirator when he failed to safeguard funds entrusted to him, helped Starr steal client money, and lied to the victims to perpetuate the scheme.” Read the SEC Complaint here.
On September 10, 2010, Starr pleaded guilty to money laundering, wire fraud and investment advisor fraud in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. He will be sentenced on February 2, 2011.