A former attorney from Wading River stole about $4 million from real estate investors in a Ponzi scheme and deceived them with forged property sales and bank records, the Manhattan district attorney's office said Thursday.
Alice Belmonte, 47, was arraigned Thursday on a 49-count indictment that includes grand larceny and identity theft charges stemming from a scam against 10 investors between August 2011 and January 2013, said District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.
She had promised "quick, high" profits through investments in foreclosures, but as soon as investors transferred funds to an escrow account to pay for purchases, Belmonte placed the money into her own accounts or paid prior investors, according to case documents.
Belmonte pleaded not guilty and bail was set at $3 million cash or bond. Her attorney, Kenneth C. Murphy of Manhattan, declined to answer questions but said she has not attempted to avoid prosecution despite knowing about the investigation.
Belmonte's surrender of her attorney's license was accepted by judicial officials in February.
Investigators, armed with a search warrant for Belmonte's home, Thursday found documents indicating she had offshore bank accounts, prosecutors said during the arraignment. Also, they said, Belmonte spent $77,000 on California hotels for herself and friends and bought two cars in California for $100,000.
Several of her defrauded investors were in Florida, but she also convinced a close friend and an acquaintance to chip in $250,000 together, court documents said.
Belmonte told investors she would find buyers willing to pay big for foreclosures, then do back-to-back closings on the purchase and resale, papers said.
When investors wanted their profits or money back, she sometimes held them off by writing fraudulent checks -- $6 million during the period covered by the indictment -- or she forged bank records about wire transfer problems, prosecutors said.