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“American Gangster” prosecutor Richie Roberts charged with stealing from clients

May 21, 2017  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
“American Gangster” prosecutor Richie Roberts charged with stealing from clients

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Richie Roberts, the former prosecutor whose takedown of a heroin drug lord in Harlem was portrayed in the movie “American Gangster” is now facing charges of theft and conspiracy after authorities accused him and his law associate of embezzling clients at their practice.

Roberts and his law partner, Gerald Saluti, were indicted Wednesday on allegations that they misused over $140,000 and lied under oath to cover their scheme, NJ.com reported.

Roberts, who pleaded guilty in federal court to tax violations in April, declared innocence and reportedly told state prosecutors he wants to take a lie detector test.

Richie Roberts pictured leaving court after pleading guilty to tax evasion last month

The state Division of Criminal Justice indicated that Richie Roberts and Saluti conspired with an administrator at their firm, the Saluti Law Group, to rob settlement cash and escrow funds from four clients between 2012 and 2013.

Elie Honig, the director of the division, said that the attorneys “treated their trust account like a personal fund that they spent on everything from cars and entertainment to, in Roberts’ case, paying alimony.”

When clients started to complain, the two reported the robberies to police — and then tried to blame the administrator, Gabriel Iannacone.

Richie Roberts pictured with Russell Crowe on the set of “American Gangster

Ianncone pleaded guilty to third-degree charges of theft in January and is awaiting sentencing.

In an interview, Roberts asserted that the state was using Ianncone, who has a troubled legal past, as a witness against him.

Roberts also indicated that he and Saluti realized that funds were being stolen, which he blamed on Ianncone, and alerted the police.

Gerald M. Saluti Jr., 49. (NJOAG)

“I took the case to the prosecutor’s office,” he stated. “Would I have taken the case if I was doing this stuff?”

Officials maintain that the probe revealed that Roberts and Saluti were involved in the theft and lied to investigators about their participation.

On Wednesday, the two men were indicted on conspiracy, theft, and hindering apprehension or prosecution and perjury.

“Lawyers take an oath to serve their clients’ interests and uphold the law,” state Attorney General Christopher Porrino said after the hearing. “We charge that these men made a mockery of those obligations.”

Roberts pursuit of Harlem-based drug kingpin Frank Lucas was portrayed in the blockbuster film “American Gangster” starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe

In April, Roberts pleaded guilty to unrelated charges of failing to collect and pay payroll taxes from the law firm, as well as failing to pay his income taxes.

The state and federal charges signified a steep fall for Roberts, a leading defense attorney with a legendary career in law enforcement.

Roberts worked as a detective and an assistant Essex County prosecutor in the 1970s when he secured an indictment against Lucas — the most powerful drug dealer in Harlem — for Lucas’ part in a Newark drug organization.

The case was later recreated into “American Gangster” in 2007 starring Russell Crowe as Roberts and Denzel Washington as Lucas.

 

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