Former LI lawyer defrauded thousands of escrow clients: DA

STONY BROOK, NY – A former Long Island attorney went Monday to answer charges related to his clients scamming thousands of funds he was believed to have kept in escrow accounts, and in at least one of cases, he used the money for personal and business expenses, prosecutors say.

Douglas Valente, the director of the Stony Brook-based Valente Law Group, allegedly stole more than $425,000 from two clients, including a senior citizen and a mortgage lender, which were believed to have been held in trust in his attorney’s escrow account at the six-month course in 2020, prosecutors say.

Valente, 56, originally had his law practice in Smithtown but later moved to Stony Brook, a spokeswoman for Suffolk District Attorney Ray Tierney’s office said. Valente now lives in Boca Raton, Florida, she said. It is not known where he previously lived on Long Island.

Between April 14 and May 31, 2020, Valente allegedly stole $181,201 from a 78-year-old woman he was representing in the sale of her home, and the sale proceeds were paid into his escrow account, the authorities said. prosecutors.

Valente only sent the required half of the funds from the sale to the woman, not half to her marriage attorney who was supposed to hold the money in escrow until her divorce was finalized, prosecutors say.

When her divorce was finalized, she was unable to obtain the rest of the proceeds from the sale of her home, prosecutors said.

Between Sept. 28 and Oct. 13, 2020, Valente stole $248,027 from mortgage lender, Guaranteed Rate Inc., after representing the company in a settlement agreement during a home refinance, prosecutors say.

The company transferred money to Valente’s escrow account to be dispersed, but Valente did not send some of the refinanced mortgage proceeds to the previous mortgage company to pay off the existing mortgage , prosecutors said.

Guaranteed Rate Inc. then had to pay off the existing mortgage for $248,027, and Valente allegedly used the funds belonging to the two clients for his own personal and business expenses, prosecutors said.

Tierney described Valente’s actions as breaching “its fiduciary duty to its customers.”

“Following a thorough investigation by my office, the defendant will be held accountable for these deceptive actions,” he said.

Valente was arraigned by Judge Richard Ambro in Riverside on two counts of second-degree grand larceny, a felony.

Valente, who is not eligible for bail under state law, was ordered to surrender his passport and released on his own recognizance. His attorney, John Carman, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Valente is due back in court on December 14.

Tierney’s office is asking anyone who believes they may have been victimized by Valente to call investigators at 631-853-5602.

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