A Smithtown real estate attorney stole more than $425,000 from an elderly client and a mortgage lender during a six-month period in 2020, Suffolk prosecutors said.
Douglas Valente, 56, the principal attorney at the Valente Law Group, was arraigned Monday in Riverhead on two counts of second-degree grand larceny.
He was ordered to surrender his passport and released on his own recognizance.
“This defendant allegedly breached his fiduciary duty to his clients by stealing money that was supposed to be held in trust in his attorney escrow account,” said Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney. “As a result of an extensive investigation done by my office, the defendant will be held accountable for these deceitful actions.”
John Carman, Valente's Garden City-based defense attorney, did not respond to a request for comment.
Prosecutors said between April 14, 2020, and May 31, 2020, Valente stole more than $180,000 from a 78-year-old client that he represented in the sale of her home. The proceeds of the sale were put into Valente’s escrow account, authorities said.
Valente sent half of the proceeds from the sale to his client but failed to provide the other half to her matrimonial attorney so it could be held in escrow until her divorce was finalized, officials said.
As a result, when his client’s divorce was finalized, she was unable to obtain the remaining proceeds from the sale of her house, prosecutors said.
In the fall of 2020, authorities said Valente stole nearly $250,000 from Guaranteed Rate Inc., a mortgage lender that he represented in a refinance transaction.
The attorney, prosecutors said, failed to send a portion of the proceeds to a different mortgage company to pay off the existing mortgage. Guaranteed Rate Inc. then had to pay off the existing mortgage in the amount of $248,027, records show.
Valente used the funds belonging to both clients for his own personal and business expenses, authorities said.
Prosecutors urged residents who believe they were victimized by Valente to call the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office at 631-853-5602.
Valente is due back in court on Dec. 14.