A disbarred West Hempstead attorney admitted Tuesday to stealing more than $5.7 million from escrow accounts belonging to clients between September 2012 and February 2014, prosecutors said.
David Frankel, 52, is scheduled to appear for sentencing on March 1 after pleading guilty to first-degree grand larceny before acting Supreme Court Justice Helene Gugerty, Singas said.
Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said prosecutors have recommended a 5- to 15-year sentence — and that Frankel also has agreed to make restitution.
Prosecutors said he stole millions of dollars from clients to fund his own “unsuccessful investments.”
“In less than a year-and-a-half, this defendant pilfered more than $5 million from his clients and egregiously used that money to fund his unsuccessful investments,” Singas said in a statement, adding: “David Frankel was supposed to represent the best interests of his clients, but instead he defrauded them.”
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.
Singas said Frankel was disbarred in October 2015.