Charles L. Lonardo was once the top personal injury lawyer in Lawrence, Massachusetts. But he made a mistake few years ago that would permanently bar him from practicing law in the state. He was convicted for auto insurance fraud in 2006 and has recently been disbarred through a Supreme Court decision. Lonardo maintains his innocence but it is still a long way to go before he could appear once more in court as a lawyer.
On September 14, the Board of Bar Overseers voted to disbar Lonardo after being convicted of conspiracy to commit auto insurance fraud in April 2006 and was sentenced to 2 and a half years in prison. This was after a state Appeals Court upheld the lawyer’s conviction in July.
The Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County processed the board’s judgment on October 16.
As narrated by state prosecutors, Lonardo, 49, of Winthrop Avenue, paid so-called runners to plot vehicle accidents. Supposed victims would then be brought to him and he would help them file car insurance claims.
Lonardo’s license to practice law was temporarily suspended on June 21, 2006 but is now permanently barred in Massachusetts.
Lawrence police Chief John Romero, who testified against Lonardo during his trial, said he was not surprise over the decision, adding that Lonardo had to suffer the consequences of his actions.
But the Lawrence lawyer still says he is innocent, maintaining that he has denied all accusations against him since day one. He also believed that he is just the third lawyer in Massachusetts to be disbarred over charges of misdemeanor.
Auto insurance fraud became a felony in September 2003 but Superior Court Judge Howard Whitehead charged Lonardo of misdemeanor instead, reasoning that much of the evidences presented against him came from events which preceded the change in the law.
A felony conviction on such fraud would have carried a maximum of five year’s conviction.
But Lonardo is not only famous for his recent disbarment. Records show that he has several accomplishments in Lawrence as a lawyer. Back in 1994, he won a Lawrence car accident case and brought in nearly $10.5 million in claims settlements.
Since that year to his indictment in 2004, his firm won a combined total of $20.8 million on all auto accident injury claims, nearly $7 million more than any other local law firm during that ten-year period.
In 2003 alone, Lonardo’s firm handled 1,179 injury claims and collected more than $3 million from insurance companies. The disbarred lawyer says his firm accepts cases without examining if they were fraudulent or not.