Friday 24 November 2017

Gayle's ex-lawyer jailed for stealing clients' millions

Teplen facing long stretch for grand larceny

CLIENT: Gayle Killilea. Photo: Gerry Mooney
CLIENT: Gayle Killilea. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

A US immigration lawyer hired by socialite turned property developer Gayle Killilea to help her secure an investment visa is set to serve up to nine years in jail after pleading guilty in a New York court to stealing more than $2m (€1.78m) from three clients.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R Vance Jr said in a statement that Philip Teplen would spend three to nine years in a state prison following his admission before 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 personal gain. He even had the audacity to continue this pattern of theft while his resignation [as an attorney] was pending," Mr Vance said, announcing the sentencing.

In the case of Ms Killilea, Mr Teplen had already consented to what is termed a judgment by confession in April 2012, in which he acknowledged that he owed her a certain amount of money, but was incapable of paying the full amount immediately.

The judgment for $83,333.34 (€74,000) was entered against Mr Teplen and his law firm following an 18-month legal spat with Ms Killilea.

She had sought the return of $500,000 (€444,000), which she had transferred from her bank account on November 17, 2010 to the escrow account of Mr Teplen's firm as part of the process of applying for an investment visa from US immigration authorities.

According to the details of last Wednesday's statement from the Manhattan District Attorney's office, Mr Teplen will serve time for stealing money from three clients.

The first case involved a client who obtained a $3.5m (€3.1m) loan in April 2011. Having been given power of attorney for the purposes of finalising the loan, Mr Teplen was able to direct its disbursement. Instead of using the money as directed, he stole more than $2m, which he used to pay for personal expenses, make investments and reimburse other clients he had previously stolen from.

In March 2012, Mr Teplen agreed to deposit a cheque payable to another client, a Christian missionary in South Africa, for $135,000 (€120,000) and to disburse the funds to her when the cheque had cleared. However, instead of providing the funds to the client, he spent more than $100,000 (€89,000).

In May 2014, Mr Teplen acted as attorney for the seller of a co-op apartment in Harlem, New York. Under the terms of the contract, he was obliged to hold the buyers' deposit of $69,500 (€61,750) in an escrow account until the contract was completed or cancelled. Instead, he deposited the money into his business account and spent it. When the intending buyers of the apartment cancelled the contract, he was unable to return the deposit money.

Sunday Independent

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