SCRANTON — A federal judge on Monday ruled local attorney Anthony Lupas is not competent to stand trial on charges he stole millions of dollars from clients in a bogus investment scheme.
Lupas, 78, was charged in March 2012 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Scranton with mail fraud for allegedly stealing $246,000 from one client. An indictment in May 2012 charged Lupas with 29 counts of mail fraud and one count each of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Prosecutors allege Lupas bilked more than $6 million over an 18-year period from clients who were promised a return of 5 to 7 percent interest in a bogus investment scheme.
Lupas’ attorneys argued their client was too mentally ill to stand trial, saying he was in an advanced stage of Alzheimer’s disease.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert D. Mariani concluded Monday that Lupas is indeed not competent to stand trial, and ordered Lupas into the custody of the attorney general for treatment at a suitable facility for at least four months.
Mariani requested a report regarding Lupas’ treatment and prognosis by March 18 to determine if a trial can be scheduled.
Mariani issued a 43-page opinion detailing reports and testimony from psychiatrists, health care providers and family members detailing Lupas’ rapid mental decline since an accident in which he fell and severely injured his hip and head on Nov. 12, 2011.
Psychiatrist Dr. Richard Fischbein and Dr. Mario Cornacchione of the Northeast Pennsylvania Memory and Alzheimer’s Center examined Lupas several times over the last two years and formed a medical opinion that the former Wilkes-Barre-based attorney was not competent to stand trial.
Lupas exhibited “significant cognitive decline” and had difficulty comprehending the circumstances of the charges filed against him, Cornacchione wrote to Mariani.
While a patient at Little Flower Manor in Kingston in early August, Lupas displayed “aggressive physical outbursts with the staff and intermittent visual hallucinations,” and required assistance in daily living such as bathing, dressing and eating.
Lupas also complained to a nephew that his family and friends were stealing his pension money, according to the judge’s opinion.
The state Supreme Court in October announced that 47 claimants who allegedly were cheated by Lupas will receive $3.25 million from a fund established by the state’s highest court.
The payments will come from the Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security, which was created by the Supreme Court in 1982 to reimburse clients who have suffered losses as a result of misappropriations of funds by Pennsylvania attorneys.