A former lawyer from Wading River defrauded roughly $4 million dollars from investors in a real estate Ponzi scheme while working as an attorney, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.
Alice Belmonte, 47, was arrested and arraigned on a 49-count indictment — including felony grand larceny charges, identity theft and forgery charges — in New York Supreme Court Thursday, prosecutors said.
Ms. Belmonte, a former general practice lawyer, was disbarred in February after she resigned in the face of the fraud allegations, claiming she “could not defend herself on the merits” of the charges, according to a court ruling that month.
Ms. Belmonte allegedly stole the millions of dollars from 10 victims between August 2011 and this January by convincing them to invest in foreclosed properties, promising them “fast and large returns on their investments,” according to the district attorney’s statement.
She then forged documents to protect her scheme, including a malpractice insurance policy amendment that would have protected her victims from her misconduct, prosecutors said.
Ms. Belmonte is also accused of faking real estate papers to show she was purchasing property, forging signatures when necessary to further the racket, according to the statement.
And while she assured her victims that their money would stay in her escrow account, Ms. Belmonte actually used the funds on herself or to pay off earlier victims in her scheme, prosecutors said. When her victims demanded their money back, Ms. Belmonte allegedly issued them “a series of bad checks” totaling more than $6 million.
“This lawyer mortgaged her future,” said District Attorney Cyrus Vance. “Attorneys have a responsibility to be trustworthy and honest with their clients, and stealing from them for personal enrichment is an embarrassment to our profession.”
Ms. Belmonte was charged with one count of first-degree grand larceny, a felony, seven counts of second-degree grand larceny, one count of third-degree grand larceny, 26 counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, a felony, three counts of third-degree identity theft, one count of first-degree scheme to defraud in the first degree, and ten counts of issuing a bad check, a misdemeanor, prosecutors said.
Belmonte pleaded not guilty to the charges and was held on $3 million cash or bond bail, and is due back in court on Dec. 9, court officials said.