A Queens solo practitioner has been disbarred for helping Burton Pugach, the disbarred attorney who orchestrated one of New York City’s most notorious crimes, to engage in the unauthorized practice of law.
Pugach was convicted in 1959 of hiring three men to throw lye in the face of his ex-girlfriend, Linda Riss. Riss suffered severe injuries, including burns across her scalp and nearly total blindness.
A prosperous Bronx attorney at the time of his conviction, Pugach returned to the law following his release from the Attica Correctional Facility in 1974, only this time as an assistant to others.
Although Pugach, now 81, has never been charged with the unauthorized practice of law, the degree to which he had returned to actual lawyering has long been a subject of whispers within the Queens legal community.
In a decision last week, the Appellate Division, 2nd Department, found that one of Pugach’s colleagues, criminal defense attorney Frank J. Hancock, crossed an ethical line by enabling Pugach to practice law and by failing to inform courts of various frauds perpetrated by Pugach.
“[T]he record reveals that [Mr. Hancock] afforded so little regard to his law license as to allow a disbarred felon to use his name freely on court papers and to advertise himself as his paralegal,” the unanimous panel ruled in Matter of Hancock, 06-02769.
The panel disbarred Hancock, effective immediately.
Hancock, 64, was a Forest Hills-based solo practitioner. A graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center, he was admitted to practice in New York in 1978. He worked for the Queens District Attorney’s Office and the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor before entering private practice.