DA Vance Announces Indictment of Former Attorney for Stealing More Than $450,000 in Settlement Funds Intended for Clients

March 6, 2015

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced the indictment of JOEL GETREU, 56, a former attorney, for stealing more than $450,000 in settlement funds intended for his clients. GETREU is charged in an indictment in New York State Supreme Court with Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, and Grand Larceny in the Second and Third Degrees.[1] 

“As detailed in the indictment, the defendant attempted to profit at the expense of a young girl, a grandmother, the victim of serious injury, and others,” said District Attorney Vance. “The alleged conduct is especially egregious because, as an entrusted legal and financial steward for these individuals, he not only failed to protect his clients, but took advantage of their trust for his own personal gain. No one is above the law, and I encourage anyone who believes that he or she may have been the victim of this type of fraud to call my Office’s Financial Frauds Bureau hotline at 212-335-8900.”

According to the indictment and documents filed in court, GETREU owned the Law Offices of Joel L. Getreu, P.C., a personal injury law practice on Nassau Street in Lower Manhattan. Between September 2012 and December 2013, GETREU allegedly stole settlement funds from his clients by withdrawing tens of thousands of dollars from his firm’s Interest on Lawyer Account (“IOLA”), an interest-bearing account into which client funds are deposited to be held by an attorney in a fiduciary capacity for the client’s benefit. However, instead of providing his clients with the settlement money awarded to them, GETREU allegedly withdrew more than $220,000 rightfully belonging to eight different clients for his personal use. Those clients included an 86-year-old grandmother; a nine-year-old girl; and a 57-year-old woman who was severely crippled by a fall that exacerbated preexisting spinal damage and who intended to use her settlement funds to pay for a wheelchair and specialized bed that would support her weakened spine. In the case of the 57-year-old woman, it is alleged that GETREU never informed the victim that he received her settlement check, approving her request in November 2013 to obtain a pre-settlement loan even though the settlement check had already been deposited into his IOLA account. In under five months, the defendant had depleted the funds in his IOLA account.

Between December 2012 and August 2013, GETREU allegedly stole approximately $247,000 from six additional clients by making withdrawals from his firm’s IOLA account. After depleting the account’s funds, the defendant paid clients with money belonging to other clients and transfers from GETREU’s operating account.

On August 14, 2014, the Appellate Division, First Department, disbarred GETREU from the practice of law.

Assistant District Attorney Jaime Hickey-Mendoza is handling the prosecution of the case, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorneys Gloria Garcia, Deputy Chief of the Financial Frauds Bureau; Archana Rao, Principal Deputy Chief of the Financial Frauds Bureau; Michael Sachs, Chief of the Financial Frauds Bureau; and Executive Assistant District Attorney David Szuchman, Chief of the Investigation Division. Paralegal Laura Gronauer and Forensic Investigator Elaine Li are providing additional assistance with the case. 

Detectives Simon Chan and Keith O’Palick, of the NYPD Detective Squad assigned to the New York County District Attorney’s Office, also assisted with the case. 

[1] The charges contained in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. All factual recitations are derived from documents filed in court and statements made on the record in court.

Defendant Information:

JOEL GETREU, D.O.B 3/26/1958
Nassau, NY


  • Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, 1 count
  • Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, 3 counts
  • Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, 10 counts