One of New York's busiest real estate lawyers has gone missing, owing millions. Even his 94-year-old mother claims he forged her signature.
- Lawyer Mitchell Kossoff employed dozens of lawyers, paralegals and real-estate investigators.
- But he’s gone missing, and his clients and creditors say he owes them millions.
- His 94-year-old mom said in a Thursday filing that he forged her signature to borrow $3 million.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Prosecutors and clients and employees of Mitchell Kossoff have been asking two questions a lot lately: Where is he? And where’s the money?
Kossoff, a longtime New York real-estate attorney who employed about two dozen lawyers and even more paralegals and investigators at his firms Kossoff PLLC and Tenant Tracers, vanished earlier this month as lawsuits by creditors piled up. Three clients claiming to be owed $8 million have even tried to force him into bankruptcy.
On Thursday, his own mother, Phyllis Kossoff, joined the fray.
“I am 94 years old and have been the victim of a terrible fraud,” she wrote in an April 29 affidavit, explaining how her signature was forged on more than $3 million of borrowing agreements.
Her lawyer David Bolton said the evidence was strong that Mitchell Kossoff forged his mother’s signature. Not only is her son being hounded by creditors, but the “independent” notaries who attested to Phyllis Kossoff’s signature all work for Kossoff, he wrote.
Kossoff is also under investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, according to his own lawyer, Mack, and other sources familiar with the investigations. Louis Giordano, one former client, said people at Kossoff’s firm have trafficked in rumors about where he may be, but no one has clear answers.
Kossoff has represented large landlord clients including Icon Realty, Stellar Management and Stonehenge NYC, according to news reports and an archived version of his firm’s now-removed website.
One of the largest groups of creditors pursuing Kossoff are clients who had millions of dollars in escrow with his firm. They claim that Kossoff often held on to their money longer than was required, or that he paid it out in increments. On April 12, several of Kossoff PLLC’s bank accounts — with JPMorgan Chase, Valley National Bank and Signature Bank — were frozen by a New York state judge.
“He was recommended by a friend,” said Giordano, who hired Kossoff for a deal and said in a court filing that he and his wife are owed $250,000. “I did my due diligence, checked him out. He seemed to have a good reputation…I was as surprised as everyone else, unfortunately.”
It’s not just clients who are on the hook. Lawyers at Kossoff’s firm have said they aren’t getting paid, and some have resigned since he disappeared, Law360 reported. One former employee at Kossoff’s firm told Insider that his accounting always did seem a little suspect: he only issued pay stubs once a quarter, and he paid employees by writing checks from a ledger book, the former employee said.
In recent months, court records suggest that Kossoff made use of merchant cash advance companies, which are essentially payday lenders for businesses. The money isn’t technically a loan, but an advance against future receivables that comes at a high price. Phyllis Kossoff’s allegedly forged signature appeared on documents filed by one such company, Capital Stack LLC.
Asked where Mitchell Kossoff is, his lawyer Walter Mack is mum. “I’m not going to tell you where he is or what he is, except he is represented by us,” Mack told Insider.
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