Ex-lawyer indicted, accused of using attorney status to dupe ‘investors’ in $4M scheme
Posted Oct 18, 2013 9:45 AM CST
By Martha Neil
A former New York real estate lawyer faces a felony case there after allegedly bilking would-be investors of $4 million, using her status as an attorney to help persuade them that the scheme was legitimate.
Alice Belmonte, 47, is also accused of writing some $6 million in bad checks, reports the New York Daily News.
"She was a lawyer who people trusted and she violated that trust and stole right from under their noses," said assistant district attorney Amy Justiniano during a Thursday hearing in Manhattan Supreme Court.
The government said Belmonte lied to individuals who trusted her and relied on forged documents in persuading them to fund non-existent real estate purchases. Foreclosed properties were to be purchased and immediately resold at a profit, the Daily News and Newsday (sub. req.) explain. New money was used to pay a return to earlier victims, in a Ponzi-like scheme, according to Justiniano, who said Belmonte went on to fleece residents of other states after she lost her law license in New York.
However, Belmonte's lawyer, Kenneth Murphy, said those who lost money were simply victims of a bad economy, the Daily News reports. "These are investments in real estate that went bad," he stated.
He also argued for lower bail, saying that Belmonte, who is married, has a 4-year-old child and lives in Suffolk County, is not a flight risk.
Belmonte was charged in a 49-count indictment with grand larceny, scheme to defraud and possession of a forged instrument, among other alleged crimes. She pleaded not guilty and bail was set at $3 million.
Riverhead LOCAL says Belmonte resigned from the bar earlier this year, after admitting in an affidavit that she could not defend herself on the merits against a federal lawsuit brought by 11 Florida plaintiffs seeking $8.5 million in damages.
The Supreme Court's Appellate Division, Second Department accepted her resignation in a February order and opinion (PDF). It says Alice Phillips Belmonte, who was admitted as Alice Marie Phillips, is also known as Alice Marie Ward.
Another Riverhead LOCAL article published in March provides further details.