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The Impersonator

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Manisero told Dreier he didn’t believe this was the only time and asked to talk to the other people involved. Dreier stalled. He began calling Manisero from time to time unprompted, apparently to feel him out about how much he knew. He’d implore him to keep this a private matter because it would damage a lot of people, including his firm and his family. On November 10, Dreier called Manisero from the United Arab Emirates, where he said he was meeting with several businesspeople about the possibility of opening another law office. He also traveled in November to St. Martin and Qatar. Manisero kept asking Dreier for more information about what he’d done, never letting on that the investigation had begun.

The Friday after Thanksgiving, Dreier called Manisero one more time with a different pitch: Maybe there was some way they could settle the matter. “Obviously,” a source familiar with the calls says, “the suggestion was money can buy peace here.”

Manisero’s response, a source says, was incredulousness. Technically, Dreier had admitted only to trying to sell the notes once and not even succeeding. If, as Dreier said, this was the only instance he’d tried, and it had failed, why offer a settlement? “How would a settlement work?” Manisero is said to have said. “I don’t understand it.”

According to the source, Dreier suggested Manisero would sign a release form limiting Dreier’s liability. “It was a real shuck and jive,” the source says—with “a hint of desperation setting in.” It was the last time Manisero and Dreier would speak.

Over the course of these calls, the Verition hedge fund, which had been speaking with Whippoorwill, learned about similar irregularities in its transactions with Dreier and sought to reclaim the $13.5 million the fund had paid him. In November, a lawyer for Verition was asked if the fund ever got its money back.

“We got money back,” a source says the lawyer said. “But I don’t know if it was our money.”

It’s been suggested that Bernie Madoff was a pathological liar. With Marc Dreier, there appears to be little doubt.

On Monday, December 1, another front of trouble opened up for Dreier. A bankruptcy lawyer with the firm named Norman Kinel sent Dreier an e-mail asking for $38.5 million out of the firm’s escrow account. Kinel needed the money for a client that had been dealing with a bankruptcy for more than five years and wanted to use some of its escrowed funds to pay its creditors. But there was a problem. Less than half the needed money remained in the escrow account.

The day after he got the e-mail from Kinel, Dreier flew to Toronto.

On December 3, the phone rang in the comptroller’s office of Dreier LLP. It was Dreier, calling from Toronto. He’d been arrested for criminal impersonation. Someone at the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Fund had alerted the police moments after Dreier was caught pretending to be Michael Padfield, and someone, either the police or a representative of the fund, had reached Dreier on his phone before his plane took off. Dreier agreed to turn himself in. “He was obviously a beaten-down man,” a Dreier LLP source says. “His voice was gravelly, desperate. He said he did wrong, he’d ruined his life and career, and he’d try to make up for it.”

The same day, Dreier’s 19-year-old son, Spencer, walked into the offices of Dreier LLP to deliver a message on behalf of his father. Spencer’s mother, Elisa, was with him. According to one source, Spencer walked into a conference room where about 40 of Dreier’s partners were meeting to discuss what to do. With his mother waiting outside, Spencer delivered his speech. “He said no one should be deserting his father because his father gave them so much,” says someone who was there. “It was bizarre.” The lawyers in the room were livid. One even started shouting: “I’m not going to listen to you! You have no place in here! This is a partnership meeting. You’re not a partner!” Spencer even apparently came back to 499 Park Avenue the next day, trying to get in, when the guards stopped him. “He said, ‘I’m just going up to get some computers!’ ” a source says. “And they said, ‘Well, you can’t. Sorry.’ ”

On December 4, Dreier, still in jail in Toronto, spoke on the phone with two of his partners, Steven Gursky and Joel Chernov, who asked him about the missing escrow funds. Dreier tried to tell the men that had he not been arrested, he would have been able to come back to New York and straighten things out—perhaps by selling some of the firm’s art. Chernov was having none of it. “I understood from this conversation that Mr. Dreier was implicitly admitting that he had improperly used client escrow funds,” he later told the court.


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