Former principal attorney at Stony Brook law firm pleads guilty to stealing...

Former principal attorney at Stony Brook law firm pleads guilty to stealing funds from clients

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Suffolk District Attorney Raymond A. Tierney announced on Dec. 6 that Douglas Valente, 57, of Florida, formerly the principal attorney at the Valente Law Group based in Stony Brook, pleaded guilty to three counts of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, after stealing over $800,000 from three of his former clients by taking their money from his escrow account.

“Over more than two years, this defendant used his attorney escrow account as his own personal slush fund when he took money belonging to his clients and used it for personal and business expenses,” said District Attorney Tierney. “No one is above the law, and my office will continue to prosecute attorneys and other professionals who choose to steal from their clients.”

According to court documents and the defendant’s admissions during his guilty plea allocution, from April 14, 2020, to May 31, 2020, Valente stole proceeds from the sale of an elderly client’s home in the amount $181,201. Valente represented the elderly victim during the sale of her home and the proceeds of the sale were put into Valente’s escrow account. Valente was required to send half of the proceeds to his client and the other half was to be sent to her matrimonial attorney to be held in escrow until her divorce was finalized.

Although Valente did send half of the proceeds to his client, he failed to send the remaining half of the proceeds to the attorney representing her in the matrimonial proceedings. As a result, when his client’s divorce was finalized, she was unable to obtain the remaining proceeds from the sale of her home.

In addition, from September 28, 2020, through October 13, 2020, Valente stole $248,027 from Guaranteed Rate Inc., a mortgage lender. Valente was the attorney and settlement agent for Guaranteed Rate Inc. in a refinance transaction. Guaranteed Rate Inc. wired money to Valente’s escrow account to be dispersed in the transaction. The defendant was supposed to send a portion of the proceeds of the refinanced mortgage to the prior mortgage company to pay off the existing mortgage, but he did not. Because of this, Guaranteed Rate Inc. had to pay off the existing mortgage in the amount of $248,027.

Between May 14, 2021, through September 30, 2022, Valente stole almost $400,000 from a client who had sold a home due to a pending divorce proceeding. Valente represented the client in the sale of the home, and he was to hold the proceeds of the sale in his escrow account to be dispersed when the divorce was finalized. Instead, Valente used the funds for business and personal expenses.

On May 18, 2022, the New York Grievance Committee for the Tenth Judicial District disbarred Valente, making him ineligible to practice law in New York State.

On December 6, 2023, Valente pleaded guilty before Supreme Court Justice, the Honorable Richard Ambro, to three counts of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, Class C felonies. Valente is due back in court on December 11, 2023, and he is being represented by William Keahon, Esq.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Donna M. Planty of the Financial Crimes Bureau, with investigative assistance from Deputy Sheriff Investigator Yvonne Decaro, and Detective Investigator Vincent Neefus of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office.

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