A Great Neck attorney was sentenced Tuesday to 1 to 3 years in prison for stealing nearly $500,000 by embezzling a down payment from a couple selling their home and by fraudulently securing a loan in the name of a corporation owned by his former mother-in-law, prosecutors said.
Daniel Spitalnic, 39, pleaded guilty before acting Supreme Court Justice Meryl Berkowitz on March 28 to three counts of second-degree grand larceny, a felony, prosecutors said.
Spitalnic was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $496,602.39.
“Attorneys are barred from commingling client funds with their own, but this defendant flagrantly violated his ethical obligations and our criminal laws when he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from clients and his former mother-in-law,” Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a news release.
In a phone interview following the sentencing, Spitalnic’s attorney, Gregory LaMarca, of East Massapequa, said there are no winners.
“This is kind of a great tragedy,” LaMarca said. “A guy who became a lawyer and was successful lost his position, lost his family, lost everything.”
LaMarca also noted that Tuesday his client was served by the Appellate Division with his disbarment notice. “It wasn’t a good day for anybody.”
Singas said that Spitalnic applied for and obtained a $300,000 loan in March 2015 by falsely representing himself as the part owner and officer of a corporation solely owned by his former mother-in-law.
The loan was secured by a mortgage on a commercial property in Great Neck, and the defendant used the money on personal items such as rent, travel, entertainment, food and other miscellaneous expenses, prosecutors said.
Spitalnic’s former mother-in-law became aware of suspicious activity in May 2015 when she went to pay real estate taxes and learned that the taxes were already paid by a title company, Singas said. She confronted Spitalnic, who said he took out the mortgage because he owed money and told her that he would pay it back.
Spitalnic then gave his former mother-in-law a Satisfaction of Mortgage document that claimed the loan had been satisfied. The document, however, which was filed with the Nassau County Clerk’s Office in May, was a forgery, Singas said.
In the second case involving the couple, the defendant represented a family that was selling a home in Manhasset.
Singas said a purchaser paid a down payment by check in June 2015 in the amount of $171,500, which was to be held in escrow by Spitalnic pending the closing. The closing on the property was held in September 2015, but the escrow money — minus $7,460 due to a title insurance company — was never received by the sellers. The check issued by Spitalnic to the title insurance company in the amount of $7,460 did not clear due to insufficient funds in the escrow account.
At the time of the plea, Spitalnic also admitted to the theft of approximately $25,000 from another client which was included as part of the overall restitution by civil judgment ordered by the court, Singas said.