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Leonard Leibowitz, Lawyer, Charged With Stealing From American Ballet Theatre Dancers, Stagehands

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NEW YORK (AP) -- A veteran Manhattan lawyer was charged Tuesday with stealing from a small union representing 80 dancers and stagehands with the American Ballet Theatre at Lincoln Center.

Leonard Leibowitz, 70, was released on $25,000 bond after appearing in federal court in Manhattan to face embezzlement charges.

Defense attorney Stephen Flamhaft told reporters afterward that once he consults with the government, "I think we'll be able to resolve this."

Leibowitz had been an attorney for the Independent Artists of America from 1994 to 2007, and had "sole possession" of the union's checkbook until 2005, court papers said.

Court papers allege that between 1997 and 2005, Leibowitz wrote more than $350,000 in checks to himself, his law firm and his wife -- a total that far exceeded his retainer. When union leaders told him he owed them $150,000, Leibowitz allegedly tried to cover himself by drawing up a loan agreement with forged signatures, prosecutors said.

In 2007, Liebowitz was again confronted by new union leadership about using union funds for personal use, court papers said. Leibowitz responded "that by the year 2000, he realized he had borrowed more than he could pay back and asked union officials to 'cut him some slack,'" the papers said.

No phone listing for the union could be found. A phone message left with the American Ballet Theatre was not immediately returned.

If convicted, Liebowitz faces up to five years in prison.

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