A disbarred West Hempstead attorney who admitted to stealing more than $5.7 million from escrow accounts belonging to clients was sentenced Monday to 3 to 9 years in prison and ordered to pay restitution, prosecutors said.
David Frankel, 52, pleaded guilty Jan. 10 to first-degree grand larceny before acting Supreme Court Justice Helene Gugerty, according to the Nassau County district attorney’s office.
Prosecutors said that between September 2012 and February 2014 Frankel stole millions of dollars from clients to fund his own “unsuccessful investments.”
“Within days of receiving $5.7 million of his clients’ money to hold in escrow, this unscrupulous lawyer began stealing the funds, spending nearly all of it for his own personal purposes,” Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a statement.
Singas said that Frankel represented seven realty companies between June 13, 2012, and Sept. 12, 2012, with “overlapping ownership” in eight Brooklyn properties. Those properties were refinanced and $5,769,281.17 was placed into escrow in an interest-on-lawyer account, she said.
But, several days after making those deposits, Singas said, Frankel began drawing on the funds — using those withdrawals to make his own investments and to make payments on unrelated real estate transactions. Eventually, she said, the account was drawn down to a balance of $836.81 by Feb. 28, 2014. Frankel was not authorized to use the funds for any purposes other than those specified by the principals.
An investigation into the incidents was opened in December 2015. He has been disbarred, prosecutors said.