Roland G. Riopelle
After practicing law for more than fifteen years at elite firms and as a prosecutor for the United States Attorney’s office in the criminal division of the Southern District of New York, Roland G. Riopelle founded Sercarz & Riopelle, LLP with his partner Maurice Sercarz in 2003.
Mr. Riopelle’s practice is primarily focused on criminal defense in both federal and state courts, regulatory defense matters, and a broad spectrum of civil litigation. He has tried to verdict a wide variety of cases, ranging from criminal securities fraud and public corruption cases, to civil claims involving medical malpractice and securities arbitration.
In addition to his caseload, Mr. Riopelle is active in a variety of professional organizations, including the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, where he has chaired the Criminal Advocacy Committee and served on the Criminal Courts and Judiciary Committees. Mr. Riopelle is also an active member of the New York Council of Defense Lawyers, where he has served as the Secretary and Treasurer, Vice President and President, and the Federal Bar Council. He has appeared as a lecturer on Continuing Legal Education topics for other attorneys, particularly in connection with developments in the criminal law, and is often consulted and quoted by journalists in connection with significant criminal cases. Mr. Riopelle has been elected a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers (an honor limited to only 1% of the attorneys in America), and was selected by his peers to be included in every Edition of Best Lawyers in America since 2009.
Mr. Riopelle was born in California in 1959. He is a summa cum laude graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, and he is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa society. After completing his undergraduate studies, Mr. Riopelle obtained a Master’s Degree in English Literature from Columbia University, before returning to U.C. Berkeley at the Boalt Hall School of Law, where he obtained his Juris Doctor degree in 1985. While attending Boalt Hall, Mr. Riopelle was the Articles Editor of the Industrial Relations Law Journal.
After graduating from law school, Mr. Riopelle clerked for the Hon. Fred Cassibry in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, and then moved to New York City to begin his law practice in 1986. Mr. Riopelle was an associate with the firms of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, and Stillman, Friedman & Shaw, P.C. with a practice focused on both civil and criminal litigation, before becoming an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York in October 1991. In his seven year tenure at the United States Attorney’s office, Mr. Riopelle prosecuted a variety of cases ranging from major narcotics cases to large commodities frauds. Among other honors, Mr. Riopelle received the Department of Justice’s Director’s Award for Superior Performance as an Assistant United States Attorney in 1994.
Since returning to private practice, Mr. Riopelle has tried a wide spectrum of matters, ranging from a medical malpractice case, to securities arbitrations, and criminal cases involving complex allegations of securities fraud, accounting fraud and money laundering. Among his successes are the trial of securities fraud charges to an acquittal together with Mr. Sercarz, in United States v. Richard Volpe, 05 Cr. 390 (SHS) (S.D.N.Y), and the trial of another securities fraud case, United States v. Robert Malin, 05 Cr. 613 (ILJ) (E.D.N.Y.), in which Mr. Riopelle obtained an acquittal for his client on all but one of the counts in the indictment, and obtained a hung jury on the remaining count. At a re-trial of Mr. Malin, the government suppressed significant exculpatory evidence and Mr. Malin was convicted on the sole count still pending against him. When Mr. Riopelle’s colleague, Marc Fernich, successfully obtained a reversal of Mr. Malin’s conviction on appeal, Mr. Riopelle negotiated a disposition of Mr. Malin’s case that did not require Mr. Malin to plead guilty to anything. Today, after Mr. Riopelle doggedly represented Mr. Malin for more than seven years, Mr. Malin is a free man with no criminal record.
More recently, in 2014, Mr. Riopelle represented Annette Bongiorno, a former employee of Bernard L. Madoff, in a trial that lasted nearly six months. Although Mrs. Bongiorno was convicted, and faced a recommended life sentence under the sentencing guidelines, Mr. Riopelle convinced the Court – over the government’s vociferous objection – to sentence Mrs. Bongiorno to only six years, in the largest and most notorious fraud case in American History. And, shortly after the verdict in the Bongiorno case, Mr. Riopelle was back on trial again, successfully defending a client in an insider trading case brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission. After obtaining a defense verdict for his client, the American Lawyer chose Mr. Riopelle, together with counsel to his client’s co-defendants, as “Litigator of the Week.”
In addition to his criminal trial work, Mr. Riopelle has successfully represented numerous corporate executives who were subjects of criminal investigation in matters ranging from accounting fraud to bribery to violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and tax evasion. In most of those cases, Mr. Riopelle’s clients were never charged with any crime.
Mr. Riopelle does not limit his practice to criminal defense work, however. He has frequently represented individuals and entities in regulatory enforcement proceedings and complex civil litigation. For example, most recently, Mr. Riopelle represented the National Arts Club and its Board in connection with a myriad of notorious civil litigations and regulatory investigations relating to alleged wrongdoing by a small clique of individuals who had dominated and controlled the Club for many years. Mr. Riopelle assisted the Club in responding to numerous regulatory and law enforcement investigations of its operations, and represented an insurgent Board of Governors in its efforts to oust the president of the Club. Ultimately, Mr. Riopelle persuaded the Attorney General’s Office not to discipline the Club or its governors, while successfully defending and prosecuting a series of complex civil litigations between the Club and its former president.