An attorney from Long Island is facing a host of charges after being arrested and arraigned for allegedly stealing nearly $300,000 from his former clients, authorities announced.
Arnab Bhukta, 38, who formerly lived in Merrick and now resides in Arizona, was charged with this week in Nassau County Court for the theft of $296,700 from two ex-clients as part of a scheme, Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said.
Specifically, Bhukta was charged with second-degree grand larceny, third-degree grand larceny, and two counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument, all felonies.
According to Singas, in July 2013, a client hired Bhukta to represent him in a personal injury case following a car crash. When the claim was settled with National General Insurance, Bhukta allegedly forged his client’s signature on a “release of all claims” form and collected $10,000 without notifying his client.
That $10,000 was allegedly deposited into Bhukta’s escrow account and never paid out to his client.
It is further alleged that in May 2015, a second client hired Bhukta to represent him in a disability claim. Bhukta allegedly submitted a claim to Mass Mutual Insurance Company. Once the claim was settled, Mass Mutual mailed a $475,000 settlement check to Bhukta, who deposited it into his escrow account again.
Singas said that, after the victim requested his money from Bhukta multiple times, he only allegedly paid $90,000 to the victim, who was owed $380,000.
Both clients later filed claims with New York Lawyer’s Fund for Client Protection and received full restitution.
The alleged stolen money was used on work and personal expenses, Singas said. Bhukta was disbarred on July 17 last year by the New York State Appellate Division.
“Attorneys have a duty to act in their clients’ interests, but this defendant allegedly betrayed his clients’ trust and stole nearly $300,000 from their personal injury settlements,” Singas said. “My office has held more than 25 crooked attorneys accountable because of the great harm they do to their clients and the legal profession, and we encourage anyone else victimized by this defendant to come forward.”
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