Peirce Moser ’99

Calculating Criminal Activity

Peirce Moser ’99 is a prosecutor with the New York County District Attorney’s Office. Photo by Samuel Stuart

Peirce Moser ’99 Follows the Money as a Prosecutor of New York Financial Crimes
H

e was part of the team that built a case against David Letterman’s blackmailer — who claimed to be merely providing Letterman first shot at purchasing the screen story of a famous talk show host’s adulterous affair.

More recently, he led the team that convicted eight former employees of the now-defunct Dewey & LeBoeuf. In the largest law firm collapse in the nation’s history, the chief financial officer was convicted of cooking the books while continuing to pay exorbitant salaries, including his own.

If there is a financial crime making headlines in New York City, there is a good chance that Peirce Moser ’99, a prosecutor with the New York County District Attorney’s Office, is on the case.

And he doesn’t care one whit about the salacious details.

“Our job is not to be the morality police; it’s to prosecute,” Moser said.

What’s interesting to him are the mechanics of a case. The old chestnut “follow the money” is a good start, he said, but mainly as an avenue for opening up investigative possibilities. A paper trail, an email thread.

These are indications of a person’s intent, and they add up.

“It’s really amazing what people will write in an email.”

One case he worked on, in which a mortgage broker imprisoned for fraud attempted to solicit the murder of a key witness that had testified against him, unfolded in real time. An investigator in the DA's office pretended to be a ready-and-willing hit man.

“It was not the sort of case I handle every day,” Moser said.

His law career was supposed to be a turnabout. When he entered UVA Law, he was a trained accountant vowing never to look back. (“I knew that I did not want to do tax law, and I knew that I did not want to litigate.”) But law school changed his mind about building on what he knew. A tax class he took in hopes to getting an easy “A” led to an interest in tax policy and a summer working as a research assistant for Professor George Yin, who has extensive experience in government.

While at UVA, Moser served as a senior editorial board member of the Virginia Tax Review and received the Edwin S. Cohen Tax Prize, in addition to other accomplishments and awards.

Following law school and a clerkship with Chief Judge Carolyn Dineen King of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Moser worked for two D.C. firms where he practiced tax law — Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, then McKee Nelson.

He liked his firm employers but found himself restless. He transitioned from transactional work to tax litigation early in his career, because he wanted to pick up more work.

“I wanted to be busy; I wanted to be working on things that were interesting and challenging,” he said.

“Plus, when you’re a young lawyer working at a firm and you’re not busy, it’s a horrible feeling.”

Then, in 2006, Moser decided to move to New York and join the Special Prosecutions Bureau of the DA's office.

The difference between law firm life and the DA's?

At his current office, “You do all your own photocopying,” he said.

Working late nights, Moser soon prosecuted Anthony Marshall, son of the philanthropist and socialite Brooke Astor, and his lawyer, Francis Morrissey, for elder abuse and financial fraud associated with Astor’s estate.

In 2010, the same year current District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. assumed responsibilities over the office, Moser joined the Major Economic Crimes Bureau, where he prosecuted Joseph Cilibrasi, a business manager and tax accountant who embezzled funds from his entertainment industry clients, including “Law & Order” star Tamara Tunie.

Moser became chief of the Tax Crimes Unit in 2014 — a role he has since relinquished with departmental reorganization. He is now senior investigative counsel in Major Economic Crimes.

In his more than a decade of calculating financial malfeasance, he has helped recover tens of millions of dollars for New Yorkers.

More: Seeking Justice for Victims: Alumni Who Serve as Prosecutors

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