George Castrataro Profiled by Local Newpaper

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

The Unpremeditated George Castrataro

Written by Tony Adams

Attorney George Castrataro is not the impresario you would expect to find behind the face in his ubiquitous ads. Yes, he is quick to give voice to his strong opinions about advocacy and community service, but the man himself is uncalculated and private by nature. I entered his Wilton Manors offices – soon to be relocated to new space at 707 NE 3rd Avenue in Fort Lauderdale – expecting to be razzle-dazzled ala Billy Flynn in Chicago. Instead, I found him uncomfortable at the prospect of talking about himself.

36 year old George Castrataro grew up in Amityville, New York. He was an out high schooler with an atypically understanding and supportive Italian Catholic family. "I was the popular nerd. The homecoming king who would leave the party early and sneak into a gay bar with a fake ID."

A family move to Florida meant an undergraduate degree followed by an MA in Public Health from University of South Florida. George had considered becoming a doctor, and became involved in the public health field first with the Tampa Bay Red Cross, followed by a move to DC to become National Manager for the Red Cross Disease Prevention Program. This was followed by a stint with the Miami Behavioral Health Center, and a year as Assistant Director of the Broward County Health Department. Concurrently, he founded his own consultancy, Non-Profit Capacity Builders, Inc.

"I began to think that becoming a lawyer would make me a better epidemiologist." With this in mind, George became a lawyer in 2005, and was Supervising Attorney of Legal Aid Service of Broward County for two years before starting his own practice in 2008 specializing in litigation and bankruptcy. The growth of his business with ten employees has necessitated the move to larger offices. He has become a nationally recognized expert in the fields of consumer law and foreclosure defense. His firm often fights for victims of predatory scammers who claim to offer debt relief through the illegal practice of "equity stripping".

George Castrataro - SFGN

In his private practice, George continues to devote a sizable amount of time to pro bono work and community service. "There is a big part of me that never left Legal Aid. My staff gets frustrated with me because of how many cases I take at cost. I react to victimizations. Predatory lending, lack of protections for LGBT couples, workplace injustice such as the Officer Mikey Verdugo case in Hollywood that I've been helping with. Most of my clients come to me when they are going through something bad. I have probably filed 300 to 400 bankruptcies in the past 18 months. Folks with second and third homes have been hit hard by the fallen real estate market. We handle a large number of gay separations in which there is property held jointly. Many of our clients are negatively equitized, meaning they are not fighting over how much each will get, but over how much each will owe."

George's practice has grown rapidly in both the straight and gay communities. Only 50% of his clients are LGBT. The economic distress that brings people to his offices is felt by all groups. He notes that his gay clients have been extremely loyal and that this is a strong incentive for giving time back to the community in like measure by helping those who are in serious need but have little resources.

"Sometimes, the oddest cases are the ones I find most interesting. I like a challenge involving individual rights threatened by bureaucracy. Say, for example, an HIV-positive guy is going through a bankruptcy and in the course of this he receives a retroactive Social Security payment that a bank might want to grab. I like diving into that kind of technical stuff. I don't want my clients to ever lose what they should not lose."

George works a very long day and is self-effacing when questioned about his private life.

"I'm single. I have some great friends but I don't really go out much. I'm not much of a dancer. Super-clumsy. I guess you'd say I'm introverted. A big techno geek. I have to have every new laptop and cell phone that comes out. I don't choose between the iphone and the Droid. I have to have both. I'd rather be home taking apart an ipod, but I do like to fly. I'm an FAA licensed pilot. That's about it.

"At work, I deal with so much stuff that is not cheerful, so when I come home, I want to laugh. I'll watch South Park or Family Guy. I come home to my Cavalier spaniel, two cats and a saltwater fish tank, but I want you to know that my house does not smell like animal. My life is orderly, but that's by necessity. When you have clients who entrust you with major life decisions at times of crisis, you don't get to be the messy one."

When asked where he sees himself 10 years from now, George said he hopes he will be in a 13 year old successful practice, and with a husband. When asked if he sees himself and that future husband with children, he confessed to feeling a little too selfish for the raising of children, but thought that, with the right partner, he would be thrilled to become a parent. Significant is the fact that, although he strongly supports some LGBT candidates for public office, George does not envision himself running for elective office as might other community servants with similar credentials. He is not about to compromise his positions to suit public opinion. He is passionate, for instance, about the reform of laws governing marijuana usage.

George is quick to list his parents among his heroes. They are the primary reason for his focus on personal integrity. I left his office with the feeling that a longer visit with a few dozen additional questions would not have gotten me into some secret and sensational part of his personality. That is the price of integrity. It is simple, clean, neat and focused. You won't see much of his personality in the ads for Attorney George Castrataro. He seems much more genuinely absorbed in the lives of his clients than in his own, and that may be the best reason for hiring him.

For more information about The Law Offices of George Castrataro, PA:  http://www.lawgc.com/