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Danversport victims' lawyer admits to swindle

By Julie Manganis, The Salem News, Beverly, Mass.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

April 09--DANVERS -- A lawyer who represented victims of the 2006 ink plant explosion in Danversport admitted yesterday to a scheme to swindle a finance company by creating fictitious victims of the blast.

Peter Lagorio pleaded guilty to 22 counts, including embezzlement, larceny and uttering forged documents, and charges of conspiracy to commit larceny and attempted larceny, during a hearing before Suffolk Superior Court Judge Carol Ball.

Lagorio, 58, of Lynnfield, was ordered to serve six months of a one-year jail term, with the balance suspended for three years, during which time he will be on probation, according to the Suffolk District Attorney's office. The prosecution had recommended a three-year state prison term.

As counsel to some of the business and property owners affected by the November 2006 blast at the CAI Arnel plant, Lagorio had access to details about the $7 million settlement reached with the plant's insurance company.

Prosecutors said last year that Lagorio was able to use that inside information and information about other individuals who had no connection to the explosion to create additional fictitious victims. He then provided that information to a finance company that specializes in advances on legal settlements, claiming that settlements were in the offing for those fictitious victims, prosecutors said. Based on that, the finance company paid Lagorio the amounts he claimed those "victims" were owed.

The finance company later discovered the scheme.

None of the actual victims of the blast were affected by Lagorio's actions, prosecutors stressed following his indictment last year.

Lagorio's co-defendant, Michael Germano, 50, of Wilmington, pleaded guilty to embezzlement, larceny, conspiracy and uttering in January and also received six months behind bars. Germano, who also worked on the Danversport case, engaged in a similar scheme involving other past cases he had settled.

Between the two attorneys, the schemes netted approximately $1.4 million, prosecutors said.

Both lawyers, who once shared office space on Atlantic Avenue in Boston, have been disbarred.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.

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