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Massapequa man charged with forging federal judge's signature when he was an attorney, feds say

A Massapequa man was charged Thursday with forging the signature of a federal judge on a purported bankruptcy petition for clients while he worked as their lawyer, officials and court records said.

Jeffrey I. Stark, 51, pleaded not guilty Thursday at his arraignment in federal court in Central Islip.

According to Stark's indictment, he was hired as an attorney by an unidentified married couple in October 2012 to help them file a bankruptcy petition.

Then, in September 2013, Stark sent the couple a forged order supposedly signed by a bankruptcy judge, sitting in the Eastern District and approving their bankruptcy, the indictment said. The judge who supposedly signed the order was not identified in the indictment.

Stark -- admitted to practice law in New York State in 1991 -- was suspended in November 2013 for failing to pay his registration fee, according to the indictment. Stark's attorney, federal defender Randi Chavis, said in court Thursday that Stark works at a hardware supply store.

The indictment said that last March, the couple sent a letter to the bankruptcy court saying Stark had been hired to help them with bankruptcy, but had not done so. The letter contained a copy of their retainer agreement and a copy of the forged order, the indictment said. The court searched its files for the supposed order and found that it did not exist, the indictment said.

In a statement, Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District, said Stark had never started an action on behalf of the couple, and that he "violated his ethical obligations to his clients and committed a serious crime which strikes at the foundation of our judicial system. . . . Attorneys are expected to uphold the law, not violate it."

After the arraignment, Chavis declined to comment, as did Eastern District prosecutor Allen Bode.

Magistrate Arlene Lindsay released Stark on a $100,000 bond, pending future hearings. If convicted, Stark could be sentenced to 18 months to 24 months in prison under the suggested federal sentencing guidelines.

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