SCRANTON -- Arriving in handcuffs in federal court for his arraignment on mail fraud, attorney Anthony Lupas Jr. went home with the prospect of facing additional charges as investigators try to account for millions of dollars from people who invested with him.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Olshefski said she was in discussion with attorneys for Lupas about bringing the case before a grand jury.
‚??We will indict at the appropriate time,‚?Ě she told Senior U.S. District Judge James Munley at the arraignment.
The criminal case runs parallel to the civil suits already filed against Lupas by people, many of them friends, who claimed to have lost their life savings in a longtime investment scheme operated by the prominent attorney.
Prior to his arraignment, federal agents served search warrants and seized documents and evidence at Lupas‚?? Plains Township apartment and former law office on Jackson Street in Wilkes-Barre. He was taken into custody at his home.
The criminal complaint filed against Lupas was under seal and its contents were not public at this time. The next step in the case is a preliminary hearing at which the prosecution presents evidence to support the charge that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine upon conviction.
The 77-year-old Lupas, a former Wilkes-Barre Area School District solicitor and father of Luzerne County Judge David Lupas, was seriously injured in a fall last year and appeared frail and weak in court. He was repeatedly asked whether he understood what was happening at the hearing.
He carried with him a plastic bag of personal belongings and used a walker to move about the courtroom and courthouse. He declined comment and told reporters, ‚??Don‚??t take it personally.‚?Ě
Olshefski, when asking for the imposition of conditions on Lupas during his release, said, ‚??We don‚??t know where millions and millions of dollars are right now.‚?Ě
She estimated between $4 million and $5 million are unaccounted for.
The figure astonished Barb Garey, who invested $125,000 with Lupas in 2006 when her husband died.
‚??He was a good friend. I had no reason not to trust the man,‚?Ě she said of Lupas.
Garey, 70, of Plains Township, contacted law enforcement after the monthly checks she received from him stopped. Judge Lupas also said he requested an investigation last year after becoming aware of circumstances involving his father.
‚??They‚??re telling me he doesn‚??t have any money,‚?Ě said Garey.
She doubted whether she would be get back any of her money, but took solace in the filing of the criminal charge.
‚??I‚??m just glad that justice looks like it‚??s going to be done,‚?Ě she said.
Attorney Ernest Preate Jr. of Scranton, who represents some of the plaintiffs in the civil suits, spoke briefly with Lupas after the hearing.
Preate said he could not serve Lupas with notice of the suits while in the courthouse and wondered when he would be able to do so.
Munley placed Lupas on house arrest with electronic monitoring by the U.S. Probation Department and ordered him to surrender his passport.
The judge allowed him to leave his Plains Township apartment to take care of ‚??matters that are of necessity for his survival,‚?Ě as requested by his attorney William Ruzzo.
Lupas failed to accept service in the past while at home, Preate pointed out, and the new conditions mostly confine him to his residence.
‚??The problem with that is, is he going to open the door when we get there?‚?Ě Preate said. ‚??We‚??ll get it done. We‚??ll get it done, one way or the other.‚?Ě
The 77-year-old Lupas, a former Wilkes-Barre Area School District solicitor and father of Luzerne County Judge David Lupas, was seriously injured in a fall last year and appeared frail and weak in court. He was repeatedly asked whether he understood what was happening at the hearing. He carried with him plastic bag of personal belongings and used a walker to move about the courtroom and courthouse. He declined comment and told reporters, ‚??Don‚??t take it personally.‚?Ě