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DA: Syosset lawyer stole half-million dollars from clients before being suspended

A suspended attorney from Syosset stole more than half a million dollars from the estates of two brothers, spending the funds on personal bills, including a private Quaker school on Long Island, the Queens district attorney's office said Wednesday.

Debra Ann Purcell-Regis, 55, was arraigned Wednesday on charges of second-degree grand larceny and first-degree offering a false instrument for the estates of Joseph Filiano and his half-brother Thomas Massaro, prosecutors said. She was released on her own recognizance.

She worked in Brooklyn and had been retained in 2008 by Massaro, but instead of paying estate bills, she transferred more than $500,000 between August 2008 and July 2013 into two bank accounts under her name, authorities said.

When Massaro died in 2013, Purcell-Regis prepared records saying his wife had gotten his pension of more than $287,000, authorities said. But they said records showed the funds were put into Filiano's estate and spent by Purcell-Regis.

In 2012, the Queens Surrogate's Court ordered her to pay the bills on Filiano's estate.

In total, she has repaid about $386,000 out of more than $500,000 illegally taken, prosecutors said.

Court records show that Purcell-Regis, admitted to the bar in 1995, had her attorney license suspended in February.

Her attorney did not return calls Wednesday afternoon.

Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown accused her of "unjustly enriching herself" and said she faces up to 15 years in prison.

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