Monday, December 21, 2015

Add One More (Ex-Staten Island Prosecutor) To List Of Guilty Lawyers Who Fleeced Clients; Admits To Glomming Approx. $700K In Sale Proceeds From Four Homeowners In Seperate Real Estate Closings

In Staten Island, New York, the Staten Island Advance reports:
  • A Staten Island attorney has admitted to embezzling approximately $700,000 from four clients who hired him for real estate transactions, according to a press release from Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown.

    On Monday, Robert DePalma, 54, who has a law office in St. George and is a former prosecutor at the Staten Island district attorney's office, pleaded guilty to four counts of second-degree grand larceny and one count of scheme to defraud, the release said.

    DePalma faces up to nine years in prison when he is sentenced Dec. 23. At that court appearance, he will have to sign a confession of judgment for $700,000.(1)

    DePalma's bank accounts showed that he used the money from the real estate deals to pay for business and personal expenses, including mortgage payments and transfers into his personal bank account, and in some cases payment to other escrow clients, Brown's office said.

    According to the criminal charges, one of DePalma's clients sold a home for $274,000 but never saw any proceeds from the sale.

    Another client was cheated out of around $150,000 following the sale of their deceased mother's Staten Island property, which sold for $375,000, according to the criminal complaint.

    DePalma told another client that the $200,000 proceeds from a $380,000 real estate sale was being held in escrow, but the defendant's bank records show the money was deposited into his account, the complaint said.

    In October 2012, DePalma was disbarred New Jersey following allegations he knowingly misappropriated client funds, according to New York Law Journal.

    Brown took over the case as a special prosecutor at the request of then-District Attorney Daniel Donovan. DePalma's lawyer, Eric Nelson, declined to comment [].
Source: Staten Island lawyer admits to embezzling $700K from clients.
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(1) Clients found to have been victimized by a theft by a New York attorney may be able to seek some reimbursement for being screwed over by turning to the The Lawyers’ Fund For Client Protection Of the State of New York, which manages and distribute money collected from annual dues paid by members of the state bar to members of the public who have sustained a financial loss caused by the dishonest conduct of a member of the bar acting as an attorney or a fiduciary.

See generally:
  • N.Y. fund for cheated clients wants thieving lawyers disbarred, a July, 2015 Associated Press story on this Fund reporting that the Fund's executive director, among other things, is calling for prompt referral to the local district attorney when the disciplinary committee has uncontested evidence of theft by a lawyer injuring a client or an admission of culpability;

    When Lawyers Steal the Escrow, a June, 2005 New York Times story describing some cases of client reimbursements ("With real estate business surging and down-payment amounts rising with home prices, the temptation for a lawyer to filch money from a bulging escrow account and later repay it with other clients' money has never been greater, said lawyers who monitor the thefts."),

    Thieving Lawyers Draining Client Security Funds, a December, 1991 New York Times story that gives some-real life examples of how client security funds deal with claims and the pressures the administrators of those funds may feel when left insufficiently financed as a result of the misconduct of a handful of lawyer/scoundrels.
For similar "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that attempt to clean up the financial mess created by the dishonest conduct of lawyers licensed in other states and Canada, see:
Maps available courtesy of The National Client Protection Organization, Inc.

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