For years, Miami-based attorney Eric Waraftig helped bankroll a QVC marketing director's lavish lifestyle by embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars and using inside information to make deals with competitors — all so he could pocket hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks.
Now, as Waraftig prepares to serve an 18-month federal prison sentence over his part in the scheme, his license to practice law in Florida has been suspended. Following his felony convictions for wire fraud and conspiracy, on October 9 the Supreme Court of Florida filed an order suspending Waraftig from practicing law.
After graduating from the University of Miami's law school, Waraftig began practicing law in 1996, according to his Florida Bar profile. He had offices in Hialeah, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami and worked on cases in Florida's Southern District Court until at least 2006.
Waraftig's big trouble began when a marketing executive, Jamie Falkowski, scored a big-shot job with the home shopping network QVC, which paid him roughly $238,800 a year. In the fall of 2008, Falkowski hired a public relations firm owned by Waraftig's wife to do work for QVC.
According to federal prosecutors, the Miami attorney soon began using the firm to help the shopping network bigwig fraudulently bill QVC to cover his expenses. On one occasion, Falkowski spent more than $225,000 on a private luxury chauffeur service for himself and his friends. Another time, he got Botox treatments from a dermatologist in New York. He also spent thousands of dollars on spa treatments at the Four Seasons and airfare for a flight from Turks and Caicos to Seattle for a New Year's Eve party.
Waraftig made out handsomely in the arrangement. Over the years, he received roughly $312,000 in royalty payments from QVC, which he split with Falkowski, though about $51,000 worth was withheld once QVC detected fraud.
In 2012, Falkowski and Waraftig found another way to profit. They secretly went to one of QVC's competitors with a deal: a new handbag line promoted by a celebrity, referred to in court documents only as G.R. Documents later refer to it as the Rancic handbag line, so the celebrity could be TV personality Giuliana Rancic.
The chairman of that competitor, a New York City-based apparel company referred to as "TigerJ" in court documents, voiced concern over the fact that this was all supposed to be a secret and found it odd that a QVC director, Falkowski, was approaching him with such an offer. So Waraftig emailed TigerJ's president and chairman.
"[TigerJ's President, M.L.] also voiced your concern about our internal structure with our silent partner. We spoke and are well aware of how we need to proceed in a very behind the scenes manner. Our partner will remain silent, and no one will ever hear of it again," Waraftig wrote February 27, 2012.
The next month, Waraftig sent Falkowski another shady email. "Need to go over with you how we are going to approach the accounting. As you know we set up a separate company in Florida just for paying our partner... Please don't put details in email for now."
By that September, the QVC competitor had sold roughly $1.8 million of the Rancic handbag line.
Things came to a head in December 2013, when QVC finally terminated Falkowski, prompting him to begin whining to Waraftig about the kickback scheme.
In May 2014, Falkowski emailed Waraftig to say, "Let's be clear of a few things: 1) The QVC and [TigerJ] revenue stream exists because of me solely. 2) You have a better deal [at QVC] than any other rep because of me solely. 3) We do not have any contract between us."
But when Falkowski didn't get his way, he sent another email, this time December 10, 2014, believing Waraftig was withholding money from him. "My next call is to QVC if you choose," he wrote. "Please don't test me because... I can cause quite a few waves. You have made tons of money because of me and I'm not going to be cut out of my portion with no answers."
"Your threat to contact QVC is beyond common sense," Waraftig replied.
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Before long, federal investigators caught wind of the conspiracy after QVC alerted them to the fraud. After putting a case together, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia filed an indictment against Falkowski on 11 counts of wire fraud, 11 counts of mail fraud, and one count of conspiracy. Waraftig's indictment came a month later, August 21, 2017, when he was hit with one count of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy.
Waraftig pleaded guilty last October, and this past August, he was sentenced to 18 months plus three years of supervised release. He'll also have to pay QVC $742,682 in restitution. On October 1, Waraftig walked into a federal prison in Santa Barbara, California. Falkowski was sentenced to 30 months in prison and three years of supervised release; he must pay $832,138 in restitution.
Though Waraftig is licensed to practice law only in Florida and had law offices in both Miami and Fort Lauderdale, the New Jersey native eventually moved to Los Angeles before his conviction, where he and his wife held a lavish all-white wedding at a Four Seasons in Beverly Hills in 2008.
Lawyers for Waraftig and Falkowski did not respond to requests for comment on the case.