Patrick M. Allienello, formerly a Rhode Island attorney, apparently believed he could misappropriate (wait, let’s call it what it is ‐ steal) more than $900,000, and not a single client would say anything. Whether simple hubris or a monumental example of stupidity, Mr. Allienello’s betrayal of client trust landed him a 16 year sentence that began back in 2014. Unsurprisingly, the state Supreme Court had already rescinded his license to practice law in 2010.
Is the sentence too harsh? Before rendering that judgment, let’s examine the details. Only the first three years will be served behind actual bars in the Adult Correctional Institutions. After that, assuming good behavior, Allienello will be subject to three years of home confinement. The final ten years will be on probation only.
Seems a pretty severe punishment for simple financial shenanigans but let’s take another look at what he did. Like other embezzlers with better known names like Enron, Worldcom, and Bernie Madoff, Mr. Allienello ruined the lives of innocent people, plain and simple. In the final analysis, Allienello pleaded no contest to nine counts of embezzlement for a grand total of $902,878.18. Upon sentencing, he was taken directly to the Adult Correctional Institutions.
Where does that leave the clients? It’s hard to tell. As an attorney, Allienello might have been able to earn enough money to pay back the victims, but with his law license rescinded, he could be hard‐pressed to find another career that pays well enough to make good on his debt. Maybe the cheated clients will see some of their money back, and maybe they won’t. What can’t be regained is the botched real estate closings courtesy of Allienello, costing not only dollars and cents but dreams as well.
Here’s the down‐and‐dirty about what the dishonorable Patrick M. Allienello actually did. As a trusted specialist in real estate closings (he was a settlement agent, to be specific), it was not unusual for a client to hand over a check worth many thousands of dollars for Allienello to deposit in a trust account pending the actual closing date of a real estate transaction. There is nothing unusual in this. He was supposed to use the funds to pay off prior mortgages for clients. Imagine the shock and consternation when it became obvious that the man had done nothing of the sort and, in fact, failed at every step of his fiduciary duty.
Official language in the sentencing described how Allienello “converted the funds to his own use.” What was that use? The details have not been released. Whether the man was in debt to the mob (completely hypothetical musing) or had his eye on a nice little Swiss chalet in Zurich is anyone’s guess. As it became obvious something strange was up, client complaints mounted.
Allienello’s pleading meant the case would not go to trial. Apparently, the man read the writing on the wall and didn’t want to take a spin on the “jury of peers” roulette wheel. After an exhaustive investigation, the State stood ready to prove that, during the time period between December 2007 and December 2009, the wayward attorney accepted money via wire transfer but failed to follow through and pay off the mortgages.
While Allienello’s name was splashed all over local press during court proceedings, lost in the kerfuffle were the people who trusted him with handling what was likely the biggest single purchase they would make in life. Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin spoke plainly of the damage caused. “This defendant used his position as an attorney and member of his community to steal from individuals who relied on him to handle their real estate closings, only to learn later that he stole their money, leaving some financially ruined in the aftermath of foreclosures and bankruptcy.”
As the ongoing investigation plowed forward to an inevitable conclusion, the Rhode Island Supreme Court suspended Allienello’s law license in 2010. In some states, attorney discipline is meted out by the state bar association. Rhode Island is different in that a special branch of the state’s Supreme Court, called The Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Rhode Island, decides on the particular punishment for wayward lawyers.
Allienello’s fraudulent actions against innocent Rhode Island citizens is just another example of how lawyers and the legal system can ruin lives. In this instance, at least, we have the perpetrator languishing behind bars and a judgement to pay restitution in place. So far, Free Court has been unable to contact any of Patrick Allienello’s victims for comment. Stay tuned for future developments.
Though the disbarment penalty issued by the Court leaves open the possibility that a future order could allow him to return to practicing law, we hope no one holds their breath waiting for that eventuality. It appears that Allienello’s decision‐making skills may be suspect in other areas of his life as well.
During research for this article, it was unearthed that this attorney’s no contest pleading for embezzlement wasn’t the first time he had uttered those words in court. Fourth Division District Court in Wakefield, RI., records indicate a Patrick M. Allienello made the plea to a charge of driving while intoxicated, and ended up with a $100 fine, $680.50 in assessments, 10 hours of community service, mandatory DWI school, and a loss of driver’s license for six months.
Alleged instances of domestic assault and domestic disorderly conduct may have contributed to Allienello’s original 2010 law license suspension.