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Lawyer Charged With Embezzling From Dancers

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Labor lawyer Leonard Leibowitz has been indicted by a federal grand jury for embezzling funds from the Independent Artists of America, a union of dancers and stage managers, which he helped create and for which he served as counsel from 1994 to 2007. He turned himself in to authorities on March 14 and was arraigned in federal court in Manhattan.

Leibowitz, 72, is accused of pilfering $150,000 from the IAA between 1997 and 2005. The union was formed in 1994, when dancers and stage managers at the American Ballet Theatre broke away from the American Guild of Musical Artists, which had represented them, to form their own union. AGMA absorbed the IAA and its members in 2007 and is attempting to recover the missing funds.

The indictment charges that in 1997, Leibowitz told a union official that he was experiencing financial troubles and required an advance on his monthly retainer, which was approximately $2,500. Over the next eight years, Leibowitz allegedly wrote checks to himself, his law firm, and his ex-wife totaling more than $350,000, roughly $150,000 more than he would have received in retainer fees over that period.

"Recovery of the missing money will help to protect the dancers, but we also want to see that justice is done and we're very pleased that the Department of Justice has started that process," AGMA national executive director Alan Gordon said in a written statement.

Leibowitz faces a maximum of five years in prison on one count of embezzling union funds and another year on one count of falsifying annual union reports. He was arrested and charged in 2009 with embezzling money from the IAA, but those charges were later dropped. As an attorney, he currently represents musicians at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Washington National Opera.

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