Starr Lawyer Charged for Role in $25 Million Theft From Clients

Jonathan Bristol, a former attorney for Kenneth Starr, was arrested today on charges he helped the New York money manager steal more than $20 million from investors’ accounts.

Bristol, a former partner at Winston & Strawn LLP, was charged with funneling stolen investor funds to Starr through attorney trust accounts from November 2008 through May of this year, according to a statement by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a parallel civil lawsuit today in federal court in New York.

The 55-year-old lawyer never disclosed the existence of the attorney trust accounts to his firm, and account statements listing Starr’s clients as the source of funds were sent directly to Bristol’s home, according to the SEC’s suit. Starr pleaded guilty in September to defrauding his clients of as much as $50 million.

“Bristol had a legal and professional responsibility not to assist Ken Starr in conduct he knew was unlawful,” George Canellos, director of the SEC’s New York office, said in a statement. “Bristol crossed the line from lawyer to conspirator when he failed to safeguard funds entrusted to him, helped Starr steal client money, and lied to the victims.”

Bristol lied to one of Starr’s clients after being confronted about an unauthorized $1 million transfer, according to the SEC suit. The lawyer told the investor the funds were being bundled with other clients’ money for an investment when it had been used to pay a multimillion-dollar legal settlement with another former client, the SEC said.

Gerard Hanlon, an attorney for Bristol at Hanlon, Dunn & Robertson, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

Bristol could face a prison term of as long as 20 years if convicted of the criminal charges, according to Bharara’s statement. Starr, who handled a roster of celebrity clients including actors Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes, could face more than 12 years in prison when he is sentenced Feb. 2.

To contact the reporter on this story: Joshua Gallu in Washington at jgallu@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Lawrence Roberts at lroberts13@bloomberg.net.

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