BY JULIE MANGANIS
---- — DANVERS — A lawyer who represented some business and property owners affected by the 2006 CAI ink plant explosion in Danversport has been indicted by a Suffolk County grand jury on charges that he invented additional, fictitious victims of the disaster to swindle a finance company.
Peter Lagorio, 57, of Lynnfield, and another lawyer, Michael Germano, 49, of Wilmington are each facing more than 20 counts, stemming from a scheme to obtain approximately $1.4 million from businesses that offer advances on settlements, the Suffolk District Attorney’s office announced yesterday.
The lawyers, who attended law school together, had worked in the same office building on Atlantic Avenue in the North End, and both have since been disbarred, Lagorio last October and Germano in February.
Prosecutors allege that Lagorio, who as an attorney for some actual victims of the Danversport explosion had access to information on the $7 million settlement in the case, contacted finance companies that specialize in advances on legal settlements.
Lagorio invented additional “victims” using information from actual individuals who had no connection at all to the disaster, then claimed that he was awaiting settlement funds on their behalf, prosecutors allege. The finance company paid Lagorio the amounts he said he was expecting from the settlements for each of his purported clients, prosecutors allege.
Among the charges Lagorio is facing are 17 counts of uttering forged documents.
None of the actual Danversport claimants were victimized by the scheme, according to Jake Wark, a spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney, Dan Conley.
But the finance companies were out of pocket once they discovered that they could not actually recover any of the funds that were paid out to Lagorio on behalf of the fictitious clients, prosecutors allege.
In 2008, during a hearing to approve the $7 million settlement with CAI, Lagorio told a reporter that insurance companies for the affected businesses and homeowners had paid out between $20 and $25 million in claims to policyholders.
Germano is also accused of swindling the finance companies by altering details of past settlements and then pocketing the money that he was advanced. In addition, prosecutors say Germano failed to turn over settlement funds to two car accident victims.
Thomas Butters, who represents Lagorio, could not be reached for comment before last night’s Salem News deadline.
Lagorio and Germano are scheduled to be arraigned in Suffolk Superior Court on July 3.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.