Steve Weinstock, a Roslyn Heights attorney who was convicted of stealing $720,000 held in an escrow account, as well as sold an East Hills property owned in the name of his law firm and who, according to the District Attorney’s office, pocketed more than $700,000 in proceeds, was sentenced last week to six months in prison and restitution of more than $1.2 million.
The announcement was made the offices of District Attorney Madeline Singas.
The defendant pleaded guilty on April 8 to four counts of grand larceny in the second degree, criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree and offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree. The defendant was remanded at the time of the plea by Supreme Court Justice Angelo Delligatti.
The defendant, who has already served a year in jail, was sentenced by Delligatti to six months incarceration, five years’ probation, and restitution in the total amount of $1,227,710.15.
“The defendant’s greed knew no bounds and he stole from his clients, his law partner, a mortgage company and real estate buyers who were unaware that there was an unpaid mortgage on their property,” Singas said. “These brazen thefts are particularly troubling because the defendant was in business with his then law partner for more than 10 years. My office will continue to aggressively prosecute any and all instances of professional corruption and I encourage anyone who may have been victimized by an attorney to contact our complaint hotline.”
Singas said that in or about April 2014, Weinstock’s then law partner received a package from the defendant that included a handwritten statement by Weinstock that there was escrow money missing in the amount of $720,000. The note also indicated that Weinstock sold an East Hills property without satisfying an outstanding mortgage loan.
The activities were done without the knowledge or permission of Weinstock’s then law partner. The case was then referred to the NCDA by the former partner.
The investigation revealed that Weinstock had taken the $720,000 from an escrow account that constituted separate down payments for two sales of commercial condominium units in New York City.
In addition to the escrow thefts, evidence revealed that Weinstock’s law firm purchased a property in East Hills in 2008 and then took out a mortgage on the property in 2010. Weinstock, on behalf of the law firm, sold the property in 2013 without paying off the outstanding mortgage.
The buyers’ lender paid approximately $608,000 directly to Weinstock’s law firm. At the closing, the buyers paid Weinstock approximately $117,000, in addition to the $50,000 down payment paid by the purchasers at the time of contract – for a total of approximately $775,000 in proceeds from the sale.
A forged satisfaction of mortgage was filed in the Nassau County Clerk’s office to conceal an outstanding mortgage loan amount of approximately $485,000 on the property.
After the closing, Weinstock continued to make payments on the outstanding mortgage loan without notifying the lender or the buyers that a lien on the property had not been satisfied. The balance of the loan at the time the scheme was approximately $483,000. The outstanding loan is not included in the total amount stolen by Weinstock as part of the scheme.
The funds stolen by Weinstock were used for various personal and professional expenses, including substantial loan repayments, credit card payments and cash withdrawals.
The clients who were victims of Weinstock’s theft of two down payments are receiving full restitution – in the amount of $370,000 and $350,000 – from the Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection of the State of New York.