Ten Years’ Prison For Real Estate Lawyer Who Stole $20 Million, US Attorney Reports

LAWFUEL – Legal News Daily – MICHAEL J. GARCIA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that real estate lawyer ANTHONY BELLETTIERI, a former partner in the now defunct
Westchester law firm of Bellettieri, Fonte & Laudonio, P.C.
(“BF&L”), was sentenced today in White Plains federal court to
121 months in prison for having defrauded numerous banks and
clients of tens of millions of dollars through an elaborate
“check-kiting” scheme involving BF&L’s corporate and escrow bank

In imposing the sentence, United States District Judge
CHARLES L. BRIEANT said that BELLETTIERI’s crime was made
possible because our society gives lawyers prestige and entrusts
them to hold client funds. Judge BRIEANT stated that a
substantial sentence was warranted in this case in order to
fulfill the sentencing goals of general and specific deterrence.
According to statements in court, court papers and
prior proceedings, BF&L was the receiving and disbursing agent
for numerous banks and financial institutions, and in that
capacity it regularly received millions of dollars earmarked for
disbursement at real estate closings, refinancings and other
related transactions.

In addition, in connection with its
substantial real estate practice, BF&L regularly received and
held private client funds in connection with real estate closings
and construction loans. Over a period of approximately three
years, BELLETTIERI siphoned more than $22 million from BF&L’s
bank accounts, concealing his thefts through a check-kiting
scheme which shifted the majority of the loss to the bank where
BF&L maintained its bank accounts.

BELLETTIERI admitted at his guilty plea that he used
the stolen money, in part, to purchase real estate interests in
commercial and vacation destinations, to make home improvements
(including the construction of a kitchen extension and a pool),
to pay credit card debts for himself and others, to fund BF&L
salaries that the business of BF&L could not sustain from its
earnings, to fund a family wedding, and to purchase and lease
automobiles for himself and others.

In a second scheme, BELLETTIERI admitted that he stole
approximately $2 million from a client, falsely telling the
client that he had invested the client’s money in private
mortgages. In order to conceal his theft, BELLETTIERI created
phoney mortgage documents, which he provided to the client, so
that the client believed that his money was secured by mortgages,
when it was not.

At sentencing, one victim told the Court about the
devastating impact on her entire family that resulted from
BELLETTIERI’s theft of her elderly father’s $200,000.
BELLETTIERI told Judge BRIEANT that his continuing criminal
conduct was like “quicksand,” that he had seen “no way out,” and
that his confession of guilt had brought him some relief.
BELLETTIERI was ordered to surrender on December 26,
2007, to a federal prison to begin serving his sentence. Judge
BRIEANT also sentenced BELLETTIERI to 3 years of supervised
release to follow his incarceration.

The Court also ordered
forfeiture of BELLETTIERI’s properties. According to statements
made in court, BELLETTIERI owes approximately $22 million in
restitution to his victims, and a final Order of Restitution will
be issued within the next 90 days.

Mr. GARCIA praised the investigation by the Federal
Bureau of Investigation.

Assistant United States Attorneys CYNTHIA K. DUNNE and
BARBARA A. WARD are in charge of the prosecution.
07-279 ###

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