Ballet Dancers’ Union Lawyer Leibowitz Indicted on $150,000 Theft Charge

A lawyer for a defunct ballet dancers’ union was accused of performing a pas de deux with its checkbook and stealing about $150,000.

Leonard Leibowitz, 72, was charged in federal court in New York with embezzling from the Independent Artists of America by writing checks from its coffers to himself, his law firm and his ex-wife, according to a press release from the office of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

The union, which Leibowitz helped start, represented American Ballet Theatre dancers from 1994 until 2007. The dancers are now part of the American Guild of Musical Artists, which trumpeted the arrest with its own press release.

Leibowitz currently represents striking Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians. His lawyer, Jeffrey Rabin, didn’t return a call for comment last night.

The checks Leibowitz wrote totaled $350,000 over eight years, exceeding earnings due to him from a monthly retainer by about $150,000, the prosecutors’ release said.

Leibowitz also was charged with falsifying annual reports in connection with signatures that were allegedly forged at his request, the release said. The reports listed the money advanced to him as a loan.

When confronted by the union’s leadership, Leibowitz said he needed the funds because he owed the government money and because his children attended private school, according to the prosecutors. He told the union leadership that he realized by 2000 he borrowed more than he could repay, the release said.

Charges filed in 2009 over the same check writing were dismissed. Carly Sullivan, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office, declined to discuss why because the information isn’t public.

The case is U.S. v. Leibowitz, 11-cr-191, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York Manhattan).

To contact the writer on this story: Philip Boroff in New York at pboroff@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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