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Joseph J. Talafous Jr. Convicted of Stealing Money from Clients
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Joseph Talafous Jr

Summary: Jersey City attorney Joseph J. Talafous Jr. was found guilty by a jury of stealing funds from five clients.

Ocean County attorney Joseph J. Talafous Jr. was convicted of stealing $1.5 million from clients over the course of over ten years. The 55-year-old was found guilty by a jury following a six-week trial before Hudson County Superior Court Judge Mirtha Ospina. Talafous faces up to 10 years behind bars in prison for stealing from five clients, many of whom were elderly or vulnerable. Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino stated that the thefts occurred between October 2004 and May 2015.

  
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Porrino said, “Lawyers have a duty to uphold the law and protect the interests of their clients, but Talafous treated his law license like a license to steal, sinking to the point of stealing nearly half a million dollars from a young boy who lost his father. This verdict will send Talafous to prison, where he belongs for his deplorable conduct.”

The jury found him guilty on six counts of theft, five counts of misapplication, four counts of filing fraudulent state income tax returns, and two counts of theft by deception. The crimes he committed include stealing from the trust fund of a young boy who had lost his father and the estates of four elderly Jersey City clients.

Talafous also failed to report income on his tax returns between 2011 and 2014. His law license was revoked in August 2015 and the disbarred lawyer was later indicted for stealing roughly $100,000 from a client’s estate. The investigation into that case is what turned up the other cases and subsequent charges against Talafous. He is set to be sentenced February 16 by the Hudson County Superior Court in Jersey City.

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Talafous, of Toms River, had a law firm in Jersey City. He was originally indicted for first degree money laundering, three counts of second degree theft by unlawful taking, four counts of second degree theft by failure to make required disposition of property, two counts of second degree theft by deception, five counts of second degree misapplication of entrusted property and four counts of third-degree filing of fraudulent state income tax returns.

The original indictment detailed the thefts against the five clients. He used a power of attorney to make unauthorized withdrawals from the investment account of an elderly client from Jersey City. The total amount of withdrawals was $78,202. He continued making withdrawals after the client died in 2010.



The second instance involved the theft of $401,418 from a young boy’s trust fund. The trust had been created in 2005 with the funds from a wrongful death lawsuit from the death of this father. The boy’s father had died in 2011 during a workplace accident.

The third case of theft was for $316,275 from an elderly woman’s estate. The Jersey City woman, who died in 2009, had no immediate family. Talafous had been hired by the woman to prepare her will, naming him as the executor of her estate.

In the fourth case, Talafous stole $406,076 from the estate of a Jersey City man. The man had died in 2012 so his family hired Talafous to be an attorney for the estate, which included multiple life insurance policies worth over $870,000.

In the fifth case of theft, Talafous was entrusted with $325,051 as the counsel over an estate of a Jersey City woman. The woman owned property in New Jersey and New York. Talafous stole the money that had been entrusted to him.

When his license was revoked, Acting Attorney General Robert Lougy stated, “We charge that Talafous crookedly stole from his clients again and again, even stooping so low as to steal funds placed in trust to care for a young boy who lost his father. Attorneys have a duty to uphold the law and faithfully serve their clients, but we allege that Talafous instead broke the law to serve himself.”

What kind of sentence do you think Talafous will get? Do you think he should be required to repay his thefts? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

To learn more about attorneys who steal funds from their client’s trusts, read these articles:

Photo: app.com



 

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