Former San Francisco law firm partner and wife sentenced for fraud

Does money talk? Prosecutors said so Tuesday, after a former partner at a premier San Francisco law firm admitted he and his wife defrauded the school district, health insurers and the firm of nearly $400,000 and was sentenced to only a year in county jail.

Jonathan Dickstein, a former partner at Morrison & Foerster, and his wife Barclay Lynn, both 44, were charged in Sept. 2010 with 31 felony counts after allegedly conspiring to create a fictional company, Puzzle Pieces, in order to get reimbursed for special education services for their autistic son. The bills totaled $389,000, at least some of which was instead used “to support their lifestyle,” prosecutors alleged.

Dickstein pleaded guilty to all the charges in October, and was sentenced Tuesday. Lynn pleaded guilty to the charges in August and received probation.

The deals were negotiated between defense attorneys and the judge in the case, and prosecutors argued in court filings that the judge should reject the deal, calling the couple’s dealings a “meticulously planned, white collar scheme” perpetrated by “people of power and means.” They asked that the couple spend “significant time in custody.”

Judge Bruce Chan Tuesday affirmed the deal, however adding that any consideration by the Sheriff’s Department to give Dickstein some form of alternative sentencing, such as early release or home detention, would have to go through him.

David Pfeifer, who oversees the District Attorney’s Office’s white-collar crime unit, told reporters afterward that the punishment was too light for a “sophisticated scheme perpetrated by an attorney and his wife resulting in the misappropriation of public funds.”

“They basically turned their child into a profit center,” he said.

The couple has already returned part of the money, and has promised to make full restitution, defense attorneys said.

aburack@sfexaminer.com

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