DA Vance: Former Attorney Claudine King Charged for Stealing Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars From Multiple Clients

December 16, 2015

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., announced the indictment of CLAUDINE KING, 38, a former real estate attorney, for stealing more than $500,000 from former clients. The defendant is charged in a New York State Supreme Court indictment with Grand Larceny in the Second and Third Degrees. 

“For years, this defendant is accused of telling lie after lie to keep her alleged scams from falling apart,” said District Attorney Vance. “While Claudine King’s clients waited for payments that were rightfully owed to them, King allegedly used their money to repay previous victims of her theft, and pay for business and personal expenses, including charges at Del Frisco’s, Alice and Olivia, and The Standard Hotel. Clients have a right to honest and fair representation by the attorneys they hire, and I encourage anyone who believes that he or she may have been the victim of this type of fraud to call my Office’s Financial Frauds Bureau hotline at 212-335-8900.”

According to the indictment and documents filed in court, between April 27, 2011, and July 15, 2013, KING, previously of the Law Office of Claudine K. King, a real estate law practice located at 110 West 40th Street in Manhattan, stole more than $500,000 from three former clients and from a potential buyer involved in the sale of one of her client’s properties. KING’S theft from each victim followed a similar pattern: she would receive money that she was supposed to hold in escrow on a client’s behalf, then rather than holding that money in escrow, she would spend it, using it either to repay clients she had previously stolen from or to pay her business and personal expenses. When victims inquired about receiving the money owed to them, the defendant would delay, claiming that there were legitimate reasons why that could not happen. In fact, the stolen funds had already been spent, often years prior.       

In July 2011, KING received approximately $41,000 as proceeds from a sale of a client’s father’s real estate. The defendant deposited those funds into her escrow account and told the client, an elderly woman in rural Virginia, that she could not provide the funds until closing, which she claimed had not yet occurred. Years passed and KING continued to refuse to turn over the funds despite repeated requests. Unbeknownst to the victim, her closing had occurred in July 2011, and KING had spent over half of the $41,000 in the first month. Only after the victim reported the defendant to the Departmental Disciplinary Committee, First Judicial Department, did KING send the victim a check for half of what she was owed. 

In April 2011, a New York based client paid KING $90,000 for use as a down payment on a property he intended to buy. After depositing that money into her escrow account, the defendant spent it in less than a month. After the sale of the property closed, KING was able to delay the discovery of her theft, by claiming that she was holding those funds in an escrow account until a mortgage on the property had cleared. Almost two years later, when the victim asked KING to release those funds to the property’s seller, she could not do so because the funds had been spent years ago. 

In January 2013, prior to the discovery of the first theft, the same victim gave KING an additional $50,000 for a down-payment on a second property. When the defendant received that $50,000 she deposited it directly into her law firm operating account, and spent nearly all of it in less than a month. The victim never received a return of the $50,000 that he had provided to the defendant.

In February 2013, KING was representing a third client, based in New Jersey, in the sale of a property she inherited from her mother. A proposed buyer of that property provided KING with a $150,000 down payment, which the defendant deposited directly into her operating account and quickly spent. KING’S client, the property owner, subsequently decided to sell the property to a different buyer and, in March 2013, KING stole $251,000 in total proceeds from that sale. When KING received the down payment, which she was supposed to hold in escrow until the sale closed, she deposited it directly into her operating account. She then used that down payment, and subsequently embezzled sales proceeds, to pay back the $150,000 down-payment she had previously embezzled from the initial proposed buyer of the client’s property, pay personal and business expenditures, and repay the first victim approximately $20,000 of the approximately $41,000 she was owed.

In March 2014, KING resigned from the New York State Bar Association.

Assistant District Attorney Caitlin Naun is handling the prosecution of the case, with the assistance of Assistant District Attorney Adam Maltz, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Archana Rao, Principal Deputy Chief of the Financial Frauds Bureau; Assistant District Attorney Michael Sachs, Chief of the Financial Frauds Bureau; and Executive Assistant District Attorney David Szuchman, Chief of the Investigation Division. Investigative assistance was provided by Investigative Analyst Ellen Choi, Senior Rackets Investigator David Moser, under the supervision of Chief Investigator Walter Alexander of the Investigations Bureau, and Financial Investigator Elaine Li, under the supervision of Irene Serrapica, Deputy Chief of Forensic Accounting and Financial Investigations, and Robert Demarest, Chief of Forensic Accounting and Investigations.
District Attorney Vance thanked the Departmental Disciplinary Committee, First Judicial Department, and the New York Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection for its assistance reimbursing the victims in this case.

[1] The charges contained in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. All factual recitations are derived from documents filed in court and statements made on the record in court.

Defendant Information:

Westchester County, NY

•    Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, three counts
•    Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, two counts