[BSN Exclusive] Fagan, Famous Holocaust Attorney, Disbarred

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[Black Star News Exclusive]

A lawyer who gained fame and then infamy when he represented a Holocaust survivor in a historic case to recover looted assets from Swiss banks has been disbarred from practicing law in the State of New Jersey.

The disbarment was announced today. Edward Fagan, who had represented Mrs. Gizella Weisshaus in a case against the Union Bank of Switzerland and several others in 1996 was disbarred after the Ethics Committee in New Jersey investigated allegations that he looted assets from a separate Weisshaus escrow account she had entrusted to him.

A Special Ethics Master had recommended his disbarment. Fagan also allegedly had stolen money from another elderly Holocaust survivor, Estelle Sapir, whom he had represented. After recovering more than $500,000 for Sapir as settlement from the Swiss banks for looted assets, Fagan did not give a dime to her. 

He continued spending the money from an account he controlled even after Sapir died, it was alleged. After she died, he allegedly offered $7,300 as a “gift,” out of her own original $500,000 to cover her funeral expenses, The Black Star learned.

Fagan, who was admitted to the bar in New Jersey in 1980, was permanently disbarred after a hearing before New Jersey State Supreme Court Justice Virginia A. Long for “knowing misappropriation of client and escrow trust funds,” and “conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation,” according to a statement from the Court today.

The disbarment is effective immediately and Fagan’s name has been ordered stricken from the roll of attorneys.The Court also ordered all funds controlled by Fagan in any New Jersey financial institution frozen and that any transfer by Fagan would have to be Court approved.

The funds, if any, are to be transferred to the Court and then deposited by the Clerk to the Superior Court Trust Fund.

The New Jersey authorities launched an investigation of Fagan following a series of articles in The Black Star News, based on interviews with Mrs. Weisshaus and research.

At one time, Fagan was flying high from the publicity following the Swiss banks case.

He offered to represent some African American proponents of reparations for Slavery in the United States, until this newspaper started exposing his alleged misdeeds. He also lined up plaintiffs in South Africa to go after Western corporations that helped sustain Apartheid.

A relative of Sapir, Janet Bernstein, told The Black Star that Fagan "got what he deserved" in a telephone interview today.

"She was my aunt--like a second mother to me because my mother died early," she said. "She was a Holocaust survivor.  I'm very disappointed in Fagan."

Even though Fagan maintains a New York law license, the New Jersey authorities will send a record of their own investigation and findings to New York "for their consideration for reciprocal discipline," said John McGill III, Assistant Ethics Counsel at the Office of Attorney Ethics, in New Jersey.

Fagan was also ordered to “reimburse the Disciplinary Oversight Committee for appropriate administrative costs and actual expenses incurred in the prosecution” of the case against him.

The New Jersey authorities started investigating the allegations against Fagan in 2005.

The Swiss banks case originally filed on behalf of Mrs. Weisshaus was settled for $1.25 billion in 1998. Yet Mrs. Weisshaus, dissatisfied that lawyers involved in the case, including Fagan, were receiving millions of dollars in fees, withdrew her name from the settlement denouncing the attorneys as “vultures.”

“He should have been disbarred before he started the Swiss case because he stole my cousin’s escrow account before hand and I didn’t know,” Mrs. Weisshaus, now 79, told The Black Star News  in an earlier interview, regarding Fagan’s alleged raid on the escrow account she had established in memory of her deceased relative.
Mrs. Weisshaus survived Auschwitz concentration camp where both her parents and all her six siblings perished, and was 15 years old when the Nazi regime was overrun. Afterwards, she came to the United States and made it a goal to one day recover the money her father deposited in Swiss banks. 

Little did she know that after bringing the banks to account, she would become embroiled in battle with her own attorney.

Mrs. Weisshaus is now focused on seeing that Fagan is also disbarred in New York. "He picked the wrong person to mess with," a New Jersey court observer said, referring to Fagan.

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