A disbarred lawyer who stole more than $1 million from vulnerable former clients brought shame upon herself and the legal profession, a Nassau judge said Thursday while sentencing her to prison.
Janice Jessup, 68, of Baldwin and Charlotte, North Carolina, got 3 to 9 years behind bars for schemes authorities said involved stealing from an elderly woman and a woman with multiple sclerosis.
“You say you’re not a bad person, but you are a thief,” acting State Supreme Court Justice Jerald Carter told Jessup in Nassau County Court.
Prosecutors said Jessup spent the money on herself and her family, including buying a vintage Corvette and supporting the limo business of the man she was married to at the time.
Assistant District Attorney Brian Heid told the judge Jessup’s crimes “struck at the heart of the judicial system.”
As part of a January plea bargain, Jessup had admitted to ripping off more than $1.1 million from a disabled woman who’d owned land that the government seized in an eminent domain case and used for a New Cassel community center.
That crime between 2008 and 2010 involved an impostor, working with Jessup, who posed as the victim to fool a court official during home visits aimed at investigating the victim’s health and whether she’d consent to the money’s release to Jessup.
The district attorney’s office identified the impostor Thursday as the victim’s sister — the same person who brought the initial complaint against Jessup — but wouldn’t say if that woman would face prosecution.
Jessup also previously took responsibility for getting a power of attorney document “purportedly bearing the signature” of a reverse mortgage client, before stealing about $84,000 in 2012 from the woman — who was in a nursing home.
Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a prepared statement that Jessup “intentionally targeted vulnerable people” and will now be punished with “a lengthy prison sentence.”
Separately, Jessup lost her law license in 2010 after facing more than a dozen professional misconduct allegations.
While ordering Jessup to pay back what she stole, Carter said Thursday he knew she couldn’t do so and added that “remorse without any restitution is hollow.”
Jessup’s attorney, James Pascarella, said the defendant had expressed great remorse, lived most of her life as a good person, and was in an abusive marriage when she took the money.
But the judge later addressed the lawyer’s reference to Jessup’s lack of a criminal record by saying John Wilkes Booth didn’t have a record either before he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.
“That did not make him any less culpable,” Carter said.
The judge also responded to a complaint Thursday about Jessup allegedly getting poor medical care at Nassau’s jail while suffering from conditions including diabetes and coronary artery disease.
Carter lowered Jessup’s bail after her April 2015 arrest — allowing her to get out of jail — after she reported not getting medication for several days despite his instructions. Her attorney asked for her transfer to state prison to be expedited due to health concerns.
“One thing that you can be sure of . . . If they’re treating you that badly and they’re not doing what they’re supposed to do, the situation changes radically upstate,” Carter said Thursday.