DA Vance: Former Attorney Sentenced to 3-to-9 Years in State Prison for Stealing More Than $2 Million From Three Clients

February 10, 2016

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced the sentencing of PHILIP TEPLEN, 58, to 3-to-9 years in state prison for stealing more than $2 million from three clients. On January 22, 2016, TEPLEN pleaded guilty in New York State Supreme Court to Grand Larceny in the First and Second Degrees.

“For years Philip Teplen lied to his clients and stole their money for his own personal gain,” said District Attorney Vance. “He even had the audacity to continue this pattern of theft while his resignation was pending with the First Judicial Department. It is an unfortunate reality that not all attorneys provide the honest and fair representation to which their clients are entitled. 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 Hotline at 212-335-8900.” 

As admitted in the defendant’s guilty plea and documents filed in court, between April 2011 and January 2012, TEPLEN owned a law practice located in the Empire State Building.  In April 2011, TEPLEN represented a client who obtained a $3.5 million loan from a financing company. To finalize the loan, the client executed a Power of Attorney naming TEPLEN as his agent, which allowed the defendant to direct the disbursement of his client’s loan. Instead of using the money as directed by the client, TEPLEN stole more than $2 million of his client’s money, which he used to pay for personal expenses, make investments, and to reimburse other clients he had previously stolen from.

Additionally, as admitted in the defendant’s guilty plea and documents filed in court, between March 2012 and April 2014, TEPLEN owned a second law practice located at 708 Third Avenue between East 44th and 45th Streets in Manhattan.  In March 2012, TEPLEN agreed to deposit a check payable to his client, a Christian missionary in South Africa, for approximately $135,000 and to disburse the funds to her when the check cleared. However, instead of providing the funds to the client as promised, TEPLEN spent more than $100,000. The defendant subsequently repaid some of the stolen money to his client, but still owes her approximately $82,000. 

As admitted in the defendant’s guilty plea and documents filed in court, in May 2014, TEPLEN acted as an attorney for the seller of a co-op apartment in Harlem. Under the contract, TEPLEN was obligated to hold the contract deposit of $69,500 paid by the buyers in an escrow account until closing or cancellation of the contract. Instead, TEPLEN deposited the money into his business account, and spent it all. In July 2014, the buyers became entitled to the return of their deposit because the contract was cancelled, but TEPLEN was unable to return any of their money. Unbeknownst to his client and the potential buyers of the apartment, during this time period TEPLEN had an affidavit of resignation pending with the First Judicial Department in response to another larceny complaint made against him to the Departmental Disciplinary Committee. 

Assistant District Attorneys Jaime Hickey-Mendoza and Laura Meehan handled the prosecution of the case, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Gloria Garcia, Deputy Chief of the Financial Frauds Bureau; 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. Forensic Investigator Francine Wexler and Investigative Analyst Ellen Choi assisted with the case. The Detective Squad of the New York City Police Department at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office also assisted with the case. 

District Attorney Vance thanked the New York Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection for its assistance reimbursing the victims in this case.

Defendant Information: 

PHILIP TEPLEN, D.O.B. 4/26/1957 
Fairfield, CT

•    Grand Larceny in the First Degree, a class B felony, one count
•    Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, two counts

•    3-to-9 years in state prison