Attorney Swindles Over Half a Million from NYC Church

White-collar crime is generally those acts that are financially motivated and nonviolent. These can include fraud, embezzlement, money laundering, and identity theft, among others. Recently, one lawyer in New York pled guilty to white-collar crime for Grand Larceny and criminal possession of a forged instrument in the third degree.

According to court documents, John Shasanmi, aged 39, was retained by a Baptist church in Harlem to represent them and act as their escrow agent during a real estate transaction with a developer.

The church and developer signed a sales agreement, which granted the developer a right to build a multi-story building at one of the church’s current locations, provided that the church would own the building’s bottom three floors. Shasanmi also signed the documents as escrow agent.

A few weeks later, he received a $250,000.00 deposit that was for escrow, and would eventually be given to the church once the deal was finalized. He had told the developer’s to deposit the funds in what he claimed to be an escrow account. In reality, the account was a personal account held in his name. A few months later, Shasanmi had managed to spend nearly all the funds for his own use, leaving around $500.00 in the account.

Two years later, the deal finally closed. Shasanmi received an additional $350,000.00 which was also to be held in escrow. Again, these funds were deposited into his personal bank account, and again, he misappropriated those funds. Within six months, there was a mere $100.00 left in the account.

Eventually, the pastor of the church asked for the bank statements corresponding to the escrow account. The lawyer sent a forged bank statement showing that all of the funds were being held in an account under ‘Law office of John Shasanmi.’

In March 2018, the pastor began asking for Shasanmi to release the money owed to the church – after multiple requests, he never handed it over. He entered his plea and is expected to receive a sentence from 1.5 to 4.5 years in prison. A judgment has been entered against him for $601,874.99.

He is expected to be sentenced in March 2019, and will no doubt face punishment from the state bar, likely losing his license to practice law. He was hired to act in his client’s best interest, and instead stole over half a million dollars from them – a church with a large congregation no less.

This will probably not play well with the judge during sentencing, unfortunately.

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