New Castle News

November 23, 2012

Ex-attorney enters plea, sentencing in January

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — A disbarred Ellwood City attorney facing charges in four theft-related cases entered an open plea in court.

Michael A. Frisk Jr., 35, of 608 Orchard Ave., pleaded guilty to four sets of charges for allegedly stealing from or cheating his clients out of money. A prosecutor said that in one case, he drained more than $87,000 in insurance money from a client whose son had been killed in a fire.

Frisk had persuaded her to put the settlement check into his account, then used the money for his personal benefit, explained Anthony J. Krastek, senior deputy attorney general.

Krastek contended in court that the woman “is out $87,473.”

In another case, Frisk forged the signature of the central court administrator, convincing a client that if he paid Frisk $225 owed in legal fees, the charges would be withdrawn, Krastek said. As a result, the man did not show up for court and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Frisk came up with a paper that had the forged signature of the withdrawn charges.

At the conclusion of Frisk’s plea Wednesday, visiting Senior Judge Eugene Fike ordered charges be consolidated, at the recommendation of the state attorney general’s office and with the agreement of Frisk and his attorney, William Panella.

Krastek noted there is no plea bargain, but explained to the judge the consolidation of the charges is for purpose of grading the crimes.

As a result, Frisk’s original charges have been reduced to 14 counts of forgery, two of receiving stolen property, one of criminal conspiracy and two of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds, and one combined count that constitutes a misdemeanor.

In an open plea, the judge has discretion to sentence Frisk according to guidelines. Should the judge deem the sentences are to run consecutively, Frisk could face a maximum of 138 years in prison and a total of $295,000 fines.

He is to be sentenced at 9 a.m. Jan. 29.

Frisk turned himself in to Ellwood City police in April after being charged in multiple cases.

One case involves him persuading a client to deposit her Social Security disability check into his account so she could withdraw the funds sooner to pay him $3,000 for legal services. When she contacted him a couple of days later to get the rest of her money, he told her his accounts were frozen. He still had $10,874 that belonged to her that investigators found had been withdrawn from his account.

In two other cases, he was charged with multiple forgery counts for defrauding Huntington Bank of $1,475, and with forging the signature of a central court administrator on a receipt.

At the time of his arrest, Frisk voluntarily had entered drug rehabilitation at Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Pittsburgh.

The Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania disbarred Frisk in July without explanation, except to say he had consented to the action.

Frisk, out of jail until his sentencing, made bail by paying 10 percent of the amount of his bond, agreeing to surrender his attorney’s license, submitting to electronic monitoring and agreeing to random drug testing.