MINEOLA, N.Y. – Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced that an attorney from Merrick who currently lives in Arizona was arraigned on an indictment today for allegedly stealing nearly $300,000 from two clients.
Arnab Bhukta, 38, was arraigned before Judge Christopher Quinn on charges of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree (a C felony), Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (a D felony) and two counts of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree (a D felony). The defendant was released on his own recognizance and is due back in court on January 24, 2020. If convicted of the top count, he faces a maximum of five to 15 years in prison.
“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,” DA 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.”
DA Singas said that in July of 2013, a client hired the defendant to represent him in a personal injury case after a car crash. When the claim was settled with National General Insurance, the defendant allegedly forged his client’s signature on a “Release of all Claims” form and collected $10,000 without notifying his client. The $10,000 was allegedly deposited into the defendant’s escrow account and never paid out to the client. The defendant was entitled to only one-third of the settlement.
In May of 2015, in a separate case, a second client hired the defendant to represent him in a disability claim. The defendant allegedly submitted a claim to Mass Mutual Insurance Company. Once the claim was settled, Mass Mutual mailed a $475,000 settlement check to the defendant, who deposited it into his escrow account. However, after the victim requested his money from the defendant multiple times, the defendant only allegedly paid $90,000 to the victim, who was owed $380,000. In this instance, the defendant was entitled to 20% of the settlement as a form of payment.
In total, he allegedly stole $296,700 from the two clients.
Both clients filed claims with New York Lawyer’s Fund for Client Protection and received their money back in full. The fund protects legal consumers from dishonest conduct in the practice of law.
The defendant allegedly spent the money on work and personal expenses.
Bhukta was disbarred on July 17, 2019, by the New York State Appellate Division, Second Department.
Since 2012, the NCDA has prosecuted more than 25 attorneys for misconduct.
If you think you may be a victim of this defendant, please call the NCDA’s Tip Line at 516-571-7755
Senior Assistant District Attorneys Heidi Bausk of DA Singas’ Financial Crimes Bureau is prosecuting this case. Brian Davis, Esq. represents the defendant.
The charges are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless found guilty.