Cooperstown lawyer and investor Thomas K. Lagan, 61, was sentenced Wednesday, Dec. 11, to 78 months in prison for financial crimes, according to a media release from the Northern District of New York’s United States Attorney’s office.
Lagan pleaded guilty in August to charges of money laundering and filing a false tax return in connection with the theft of about $11.8 million from estates for which he served as a fiduciary.
Senior United States District Judge Lawrence E. Kahn also ordered Lagan to pay $7,707,450 in restitution, and to forfeit the following as proceeds of his crimes: 10 bank and brokerage accounts; an additional $255,000 already paid to the government; three properties in Otsego County; a 2016 Mercedes Benz S550; a 2015 Jeep Wrangler Sport; a 2015 Lexus RX450; and a 2015 Sea-Doo jet ski and accompanying trailer.
In a related case prosecuted by the New York Attorney General’s Office, Lagan pleaded guilty, in Albany County Court, to grand larceny in the first degree, and was sentenced to four to 12 years in prison. The federal and state terms of imprisonment will run concurrent to one another.
Lagan admitted that between November 2011 and February 2018, he conspired with Richard J. Sherwood to launder the proceeds of a scheme to defraud the estates of three sisters: Pauline Bruggeman, Anne Urban and Julia Rentz.
Sherwood pleaded guilty in June 2018 to federal and state charges. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 19.
United States Attorney Grant C. Jaquith stated: “Fueled by insatiable greed, Thomas Lagan stole millions of dollars earmarked for churches and civic organizations. Lagan was trusted to carry out his victims’ charitable endeavors, but betrayed them after they died. Today’s sentence holds him accountable for his despicable behavior and ensures that his crimes won’t pay.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge James N. Hendricks stated: “Thomas Lagan chose to steal millions of dollars from estates meant for churches and charitable organizations. The FBI takes our responsibility to investigate and pursue those who commit fraud for personal gain very seriously. We will continue working with our law enforcement partners to hold accountable those who use illegal means and criminal behavior to take advantage of others.”
Lagan was an investment adviser and attorney. Sherwood, a lawyer who served as Guilderland Town Justice, practiced primarily in the area of trusts and estates.
Starting in 2006, they provided estate planning and related legal services to Capital Region philanthropists Warren and Pauline Bruggeman, and to Pauline’s sister, Anne Urban, all of Niskayuna. They were advising the Bruggemans when, in 2006, the Bruggemans signed wills directing that all their assets go to charities, churches and civic organizations, aside from bequests to Anne Urban and Julia Rentz, Pauline’s sisters.
Warren Bruggeman died in April 2009, and Pauline died in August 2011. At the time of her death, Pauline had personal and trust assets valued at about $20 million.
In pleading guilty, Lagan admitted that after Pauline Bruggeman’s death, he and Sherwood conspired to steal, and did steal, millions of dollars from her estate as well as from Anne Urban, who died in 2013. Their conspiracy came to include the diversion and transfer to themselves of several million dollars belonging to Julia Rentz, a resident of Ohio, who was suffering from dementia at the time of the thefts and died in 2013.
Lagan admitted that he and Sherwood stole $11,831,563, and that nearly $6.3 million was transferred outright to him.
Lagan admitted that he and Sherwood induced Anne Urban to create a trust whose purpose, unknown to her, was to allow them to transfer Bruggeman/Urban assets to themselves. Sherwood and Lagan also set up more than 10 bank accounts, and created a limited liability company (Empire Capital Trust, LLC), to first conceal the theft of the money and then transfer the money to themselves.
Lagan also admitted to filing false federal tax returns in 2013 and 2015. The returns were false because he did not report, as other income, millions of dollars that he received from the fraudulent scheme.