OCEAN COUNTY – A trusted attorney was indicted for allegedly using his knowledge of elder law to swindle six Ocean County women.
Robert Novy, 66, of Brick, ran a law practice in Manchester Township, and hosted a popular radio program, “Inside the Law,” that dealt with elder law issues. He also allegedly stole $1.9 million from clients between 2009 and 2016, generally from women who had no close relatives and, in some cases, suffered from dementia.
The New Jersey State Attorney General’s Office announced that the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau got a grand jury indictment against Novy on 10 counts of theft, money laundering, and “misapplication of entrusted property.” The counts range from first- to second-degree crimes and carry penalties ranging from fines up to $500,000 and 10-20 years prison time.
Although these indictments were handed down April 30, the Division of Criminal Justice is still investigating “numerous additional suspicious financial transactions involving funds of other clients of Novy,” the state attorney general’s office said.
“We allege that Novy systematically drained his clients’ assets, laundering funds through various bank accounts and charging unauthorized fees to enrich himself and his firm,” director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice said. “We urge anyone with relevant information about Novy and his handling of client funds to contact our office.”
Novy was arrested Oct. 18, 2016 after being investigated by several government agencies, including the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau and the New Jersey Division of Taxation Office of Criminal Investigation. It had been referred to the Division of Criminal Justice by Ocean County Surrogate Jeffrey W. Moran.
A complaint against him from the New Jersey Office of Attorney Ethics was also issued Jan. 26 that year.
Detectives executed a search warrant of Novy’s law office in Manchester, seizing bills and other evidence. More than $3.5 million in firm assets were frozen by court order, and a trustee was appointed to oversee Novy’s law practice.
“Novy allegedly stole nearly $2 million from vulnerable clients, preying on seniors who were frail and isolated and who trusted him as their attorney to guard their life savings,” Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said. “It is hard to imagine a more callous personal and professional betrayal.”
The state alleges Novy stole from elderly and deceased clients, those with no close relatives to claim their estates or challenge Novy. The attorney allegedly used those funds to pay for personal and business expenses.
So how did he do this? The state asserts Novy gained control by making himself the sole financial decision-maker for these clients. By doing so, he gained control over wills, powers of attorney and trust documents. Novy also directed insurance companies to redeem policies and send those funds directly to him. When challenged, Novy would claim those deposits were “administrative errors” and repay those funds.
“I knew he was a crook, and I told him that,” Barbara Farland told Jersey Shore Online. Her mother, Mary Stover, was victimized by Novy and her own sister, who Farland said dated the attorney before her death in 2014. “He was really interested that I said that, and he asked me why I said that. I said ‘I’m not telling you. I’m going to tell it to the judge.’”
Farland came back east from Denver when she received a call from her mother, then age 94. Farland ended up staying for 11 months, wrangling with Novy and his associates to untangle her mother from his grip.
Her mother had $3 million in the bank, and by the time Novy and others had made Stover change her will and sign away her money to a family member, Farland alleges, her mother was in a nursing home on Medicaid. She died six years later.
Farland was happy to hear that Novy was indicted on the charges April 30.
“I’m happy. He should be (indicted). He made a lot of old people miserable because he cheated them. These are old people that are good people. And then they’re abused by this man?” she said.
It appears Stover is not part of the 10 counts against Novy at this time. The attorney general’s office did not release the names of his victims, but gave accounts of six women who were stolen from:
- An 88-year-old Brick woman, who died in 2015, allegedly lost $738,457.
- An 87-year-old Manchester woman who suffered from dementia, who died in 2014, lost $650,700.
- An 85-year-old woman from Brick, who suffered from Alzheimer’s and died in 2013, lost $242,305.
- An 87-year-old Point Pleasant woman, who suffered from dementia and died in 2015, lost $103,843.
- An 85-year-old Waretown woman, who died in 2013, and her 92-year-old husband in 2011, lost $45,520.
- A Manchester woman, currently 98, lost $130,000.
The state alleges that Novy worked in three ways: he would simply transfer funds from clients’ personal bank accounts or liquidated personal assets to his own bank account ($322,342); he transferred funds into an Interest on Lawyer Trust Account, accounts he controlled as power of attorney ($929,026); and transferred client funds from various accounts into his firm’s operating and disbursement accounts, and would overbill clients for power of attorney fees with no invoices ($659,457). He attempted to hide the money.
Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson, Mercer County, handed up the indictment. The case is assigned to Ocean County. Novy will appear in court for arraignment, though no date has been publicly announced.