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April 21, 2021

Barclay Damon Provides Pro Bono Aid to Victims of Tomaszewski Embezzlement and Bankruptcy

April 21, 2021—Barclay Damon attorneys Beth Ann Bivona, Janice Grubin, Jim Milbrand, and Caitlyn Ford are providing pro bono representation to three victims in the Michael S. Tomaszewski bankruptcy. Tomaszewski operated and served as the funeral director of Michael S. Tomaszewski Funeral and Cremation Chapel, LLC, located in Batavia, New York. As the funeral director, Tomaszewski accepted deposits from customers to pay for future funeral, burial, or cremation needs (“pre-need payments”). Under Section 453 of the NYS General Business Law, a funeral home accepting a pre-need deposit is required to place the deposit in a segregated interest-bearing account in the name of the client. In violation of that statute and the criminal laws of the state, Tomaszewski embezzled the entire deposit of each victim.

Corey Auerbach, Barclay Damon’s pro bono partner, said, “The team working on this matter, the rest of the firm, and I are proud to partner with the Erie County Bar Association’s Volunteer Lawyers Project to help protect the assets of these people who intended to make wise investments. It’s one of the many ways our attorneys give back through our award-winning pro bono program.”

On February 5, 2020, Tomaszewski filed a Chapter 11 case (Case No.:20-10203-CLB). At the time of the filing, he did not list any pre-need depositors. Tomaszewski later amended his bankruptcy petition to include the victims, who other sources identified as constituting more than 100 people owed more than $575,000 in the aggregate. Tomaszewski filed a plan that was opposed by the victims and ultimately denied confirmation by the bankruptcy court. Concurrently, he was indicted on criminal charges in connection with the pre-need payments.

On March 16, 2021, the Chapter 11 case was converted to a Chapter 7 liquidation, whereupon a Chapter 7 trustee was appointed. On April 15, 2021, Chief Bankruptcy Judge Carl L. Bucki entered an order declaring the debt owed to each of Barclay Damon’s three client victims non-dischargeable. Counsel representing other victims are also seeking similar and other types of relief against the funeral home.

Tomaszewski has pleaded guilty to certain criminal charges and is awaiting sentencing. The victims are hopeful that, between restitution and the efforts of the Chapter 7 trustee and aid organizations, they will realize cash or in-kind recoveries on their converted pre-need deposit claims.

Through Barclay Damon’s pro bono program, the firm dedicated more than 2,500 hours of time valued at nearly $750,000 to pro bono efforts in 2020. That year, for the fourth year in a row, every one of the firm’s full-time attorneys provided pro bono to those seeking access to justice.

Barclay Damon attorneys team across offices and practices to provide customized, targeted solutions grounded in industry knowledge and a deep understanding of our clients’ businesses. With nearly 300 attorneys, Barclay Damon is a leading law firm that operates from a strategic platform of offices located in the Northeastern United States and Toronto. For more information, visit our award-winning website at barclaydamon.com.

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