A Mineola attorney was arrested Thursday for stealing $20,000 in escrow funds from a couple who hired him to help sell their Queens home, the Nassau District Attorney's office said.
Bill Tsoumpelis, 48, of St. James, was charged with third-degree grand larceny, a class D felony, before being released on his own recognizance after his arraignment, said acting District Attorney Madeline Singas in a news release. He pleaded not guilty, prosecutors said.
At the home's closing on Aug. 21, 2014, the couple and the buyer agreed the sellers should put $20,000 in an escrow account held by Tsoumpelis "due to asbestos supposedly being found in the pipe installation" of the home, prosecutors said.
The issue was resolved within a few days and the couple asked Tsoumpelis for their money, prosecutors said. Tsoumpelis told the couple he first wanted to get a release from the home buyer's attorney authorizing the release of the money, the prosecutor said.
The buyer's attorney told Tsoumpelis he could return the money but he wrote a check from his law firm's operating account, rather than his escrow account, for $21,932, payable to one of the sellers, prosecutors said. The check was incomplete -- the amount of money was only stated in numerals and wasn't written out, so the sellers' bank would not accept the check, prosecutors said
Further attempts by the couple to get the money from Tsoumpelis were unsuccessful, prosecutors said. In November, the couple filed a complaint with the district attorney's office, leading to an investigation and Tsoumpelis' arrest.
Prosecutors said if convicted, Tsoumpelis faces up to 21/3 years to 7 years in prison. He is due back in court March 23.