Brooklyn attorney faces up to 20 years for helping a client avoid paying off a penalty
An attorney from Brooklyn could go away for up to 20 years after she was convicted on Wednesday by a federal jury of obstructing and conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding.
Attorney Lydia Hills was found guilty of lying to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York in an attempt to convince them to remove a lien from one of her client’s properties so that she and the client could illegally profit from it.
She now faces up to 20 years in prison after she was convicted following a three-day jury trial in front of Hon. I. Leo Glasser in the federal court in Downtown Brooklyn.
“As proved at trial, Hills violated her oath as an attorney by participating in a corrupt scheme to impede the collection of forfeiture and restitution owed to the government by her client,” stated U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue. “Today’s verdict holds her responsible for attempting to undermine the laws she was sworn to uphold, and serves as a message to others that this office will not tolerate such conduct.”
Hills’ client was convicted in 2010 of conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud. The client was hit with a 70-month prison sentence, ordered to pay $4.9 million in restitution and had to forfeit another $13.5 million. The Office of the U.S. Attorney For the Southern District filed a lien against four properties in Queens to prevent the client from selling them without using the money to pay back the combined $18.4 million, prosecutors said.
Hills was admitted to the New York State Bar in 2011.
Hills, who is also a licensed real estate broker, then represented the client in a mortgage “short sale” of the properties. Prosecutors were able to prove that she conspired with her client to sell the four properties in a way that the client would receive the proceeds as a hidden cash payment so they wouldn’t have to use the money to pay back the money owed.
On March 15, 2016, Hills faxed a letter to the U.S. Attorney’s Office requesting the lien be released and, as proven in court, in the process she falsely claimed that the client would receive no money after paying off the mortgage on the properties. On April 6, 2016, Hills received a bag that contained $33,100 in cash from a buyer in exchange for one of her client’s properties. She took a $8,100 broker fee out of that bag and gave the rest to her client, according to prosecutors.
“When the government imposes a restitution and forfeiture agreement in response to a crime that’s been committed, the best course of action is to pay up,” said William Sweeney, FBI assistant director in charge at the New York field office. “Lydia Hills masterminded a scheme so her client could skirt the system. At one point, Hills expressed concerns about the deal that was about to go down. As evidenced by today’s conviction, she had every reason to fear the inevitable outcome.”
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