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Crowell & Moring lawyers puzzled by colleague’s theft

Douglas Arntsen stole roughly $4 million from client’s escrow account

It’s always the quiet ones, so the saying goes. Crowell & Moring lawyers recently were shocked to learn that one of the law firm’s kindest, seemingly average employees was hiding a dark secret.

On Sept. 12, 33-year-old real estate lawyer Douglas Arntsen—who lives in a modest home on Staten Island, N.Y., with his wife and daughter—unexpectedly quit his job at Crowell & Moring, where he had worked since 2007 and had a reputation for being a quiet, friendly, hard-working employee. Oddly enough, his resignation coincided with one of the firm’s clients, Regal Real Estate, discovery that $4 million was missing from one of its escrow accounts maintained by the firm.

Arntsen admitted to Regal’s managing partner, William Punch, that he had used some of the missing money and promised to get it back. Punch was shocked.

"Two weeks ago if someone had told me Doug stole a paper clip off somebody's desk, I wouldn't have believed it," Punch told Reuters in September.

Arntsen then took Punch with him to two different Manhattan banks where he withdrew nearly $2 million. When Arntsen told Punch the remainder of the money was in Hong Kong and that Punch should accompany him to retrieve it, Punch set up a meeting with Arntsen for the next day where he intended to have the police intercept Arntsen at the meeting. 

Arntsen, however, was a no-show, and instead was bound for Hong Kong alone. Authorities arrested him on Sept. 15 in Hong Kong. His extradition hearing takes place Nov. 16. Arntsen faces a criminal charge for first-degree grand larceny. He also is named in two civil lawsuits—one filed by Regal and one filed by real estate management company Aristone Realty Capital—that also named Crowell & Moring as a defendant.

One Crowell & Moring lawyer told Thomson Reuters that Arntsen’s scheme was “mind-blowing.” “The guys in the office, we’d go out for a few drinks after a long day, but not Doug. He’d have one Coke and go home,” he said.

Read Thomson Reuters for more details.

Ashley Post

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