- The Washington Times - Friday, April 24, 2009

GARDEN CITY, N.Y. | William Parente was a successful Manhattan lawyer who apparently had a side business lending money at high-interest rates - deals that may have cost investors as much as $20 million.

The revelations about his financial dealings came not long after the 59-year-old tax lawyer fatally beat and asphyxiated his family last weekend in a Maryland hotel room, then took his own life, leaving few clues behind.

“What he did to his family is unforgivable,” lawyer Steven B. Drelich said Thursday. “The face of evil can be pretty ordinary.”

Mr. Drelich’s law firm partner, Bruce Montague of Queens, said he invested $450,000 with Parente.

The FBI and New York State Attorney General’s Office are looking into allegations that Parente was in a financial bind and may have owed millions to investors who only now are beginning to suspect that they were scammed.

Mr. Montague, 47, learned Tuesday that two of six checks he recently received from Parente had bounced. The losses from the two checks totaled $245,000. A short time later, Mr. Montague began hearing media reports about the deaths of Parente and his family, and he contacted authorities.

The FBI has confirmed that it began investigating Parente’s financial dealings after the murder-suicide.

A law enforcement official said Thursday that local authorities notified the FBI after trying to contact relatives of the victims by using a cell phone found at the scene. Some of the programmed numbers were for people who told police they had investments with Parente, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

Mr. Montague declined media interviews, but another law partner, Craig Gardy, said the publicity has prompted several telephone calls to his office from others who suspect that they may have been scammed. Mr. Drelich said three people quickly came forward, saying they lost at least $4 million.

“People were upset,” said Mr. Gardy, who described a newspaper report that up to $20 million may have been swindled from people by Parente, as “reasonable.” “Everyone that calls knows at least another person involved. It’s going to keep growing.”

Mr. Gardy said Mr. Montague invested with Parente after being introduced to him by another lawyer, whom he would not identify.

Despite suspicions about the shady investments, Baltimore County, Md., police said a motive for the killings is still unknown.

“We have not reached that determination, and we may never reach that determination,” spokesman Cpl. Mike Hill said Wednesday.

The bodies of Parente; his wife, Betty, 58; and their daughters Stephanie, 19, and Catherine, 11, were discovered Monday in a hotel in Towson, Md., a suburb north of Baltimore. The couple and their younger daughter were in Maryland to visit Miss Parente, a sophomore at Loyola College in Baltimore.

Mrs. Parente and the daughters, who were found on the bed, died of blunt force trauma and asphyxiation. Parente, who was found in the bathroom, died by cutting himself, but Cpl. Hill declined to elaborate.

• Associated Press writers Alex Dominguez and Sarah Brumfield in Baltimore, and Bonny Ghosh in New York contributed to this report.

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