What to Know
- Attorney Richard Luthmann was among four people arrested by federal authorities in an alleged scheme to cheat businesses
- Luthmann allegedly arranged for a co-conspirator to be held at gunpoint and tricked a blind client into being "president" of a fake company
- Luthmann made the news earlier this year after a State Assembly candidate said he threatened her in Facebook posts
A controversial Staten Island attorney and three others were arrested early Friday by the FBI on federal kidnapping, fraud and extortion charges, law enforcement officials say.
Richard Luthmann, founder of the Luthmann Law Firm, George Padula, Michael Beck and Stephen Cotogno are named in an 11-count indictment alleging they defrauded companies seeking to purchase scrap metal, took advantage of a disabled man to conceal the fraud, and used a firearm to collect a purported debt, prosecutors say.
The scrap metal scheme involved shipping containers filled with cheap filler material to victim clients who had contracted for valuable scrap metal. Luthmann and Padula would then use their alleged organized crime connections to settle any disputes with clients. To further the scheme, Luthmann also allegedly registered fake companies with the New York Department of State and recruited a client of his law firm who was blind and living on public assistance to be the nominal president, the indictment says.
The indictment also alleges Luthmann arranged for an unnamed co-conspirator to come to his office where upon his arrival the co-conspirator was held at gunpoint by Michael Beck who demanded $10,000.
“After allegedly devising a scheme to cheat potential business partners, an attorney and his cohorts threatened using a purported organized crime syndicate to manage those who disagreed with the fraud,” FBI Assistant Director William Sweeney said. “They are even accused of forcing a blind man to take part in their criminal attempt at profiting in business without working for it.”
The Luthmann Law Firm specializes in trusts and estates and has offices in Staten Island, Manhattan and New Jersey, the firm’s website says.
Luthmann and the others charged were to appear in federal court in Brooklyn Friday. Luthmann, Padula, and Beck face life in prison if convicted and Cotogno faces 20 years if convicted on fraud charges, prosecutors say.
A voicemail message was left with the Luthmann Law Firm seeking comment.
In addition to today’s charges, recent media reports have identified Luthmann as the subject of an investigation being conducted by a special prosecutor appointed in August by a Staten Island judge. That investigation is probing allegations that he created false Facebook pages to attack Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon and other politicians. However, the order appointing the special prosecutor does not specifically name Luthmann as the target of the investigation.