On Wednesday, August 30, 2023, the Supreme Court of the State of New York Appellate Division: Second Judicial Department suspended attorney Sam Afra due to escrow-related misconduct.
The case is entitled “In the Matter of Sam Afra,” and was brought by the Grievance Committee with case no. 2020-08852.
The charges cited New York Rules of Professional Conduct 1.15(a) and 8.4(h).
The Committee initiated disciplinary proceedings against Afra alleging professional misconduct. The petition filed by the Grievance Committee contained four charges of professional misconduct related to the mishandling of funds held in escrow. Afra admitted to these charges as part of a stipulation agreement with the committee. The charges included violations of the rule for the handling of client funds, and dealing with conduct adversely reflecting on an attorney’s fitness to practice law.
The charges had stemmed from Afra’s operation of an attorney trust account at Signature Bank. The allegations involved misappropriation of funds entrusted to him as a fiduciary, including instances where Afra had failed to maintain the required balances in the escrow account. The evidence presented had shown several instances of financial mismanagement within his escrow account, leading to negative balances. Afra had also admitted to failing to remove his legal fees from the account in multiple cases.
The filing states:
“The respondent admitted that he was wrong in failing to verify the escrow account balance prior to disbursing certain funds, in paying personal or business expenses from the escrow account, and in failing to remove his legal fees from the escrow account.”
In defense of his actions, Afra cited personal hardships during the period of the alleged misconduct, including going through a divorce and becoming his father’s live-in caretaker due to health problems. However, the court had determined that these factors did not excuse his professional misconduct.
Ultimately, the court considered Afra’s admissions, remedial measures, lack of evidence of client harm, character references, and previous disciplinary actions. The court ruled that a six-month suspension from the practice of law, effective September 29, 2023, is warranted.
During the suspension period, Afra is prohibited from practicing law, appearing as an attorney before any court or authority, giving legal opinions or advice, and holding himself out as an attorney. He had been allowed to seek reinstatement no earlier than February 29, 2024.
According to avvo.com, Mr. Afra is an attorney in Bay Shore, New York. He is the owner of the Law Offices of Sam Afra, P.C. He acquired his law license in New York in 2006.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.