Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced Friday that an attorney from Merrick was arrested and arraigned for allegedly stealing nearly $300,000 from two clients.
According to a news release, a client hired Arnab Bhukta, 38, in July 2013 to represent him in a personal injury case after a car crash. When the claim was settled with National General Insurance, Bhukta, who now lives in Arizona, allegedly forged his client’s signature on a “Release of all Claims” form and collected $10,000 without notifying his client. He allegedly deposited the $10,000 into his escrow account and never paid the client, despite being entitled to only one-third of the settlement.
In a separate case in May 2015, a second client hired Bhukta to represent him in a disability claim. The attorney allegedly submitted a claim to Mass Mutual Insurance Company. Once it was settled, Mass Mutual mailed a $475,000 settlement check to Bhukta, who deposited it into his escrow account. After the client requested his money multiple times, allegedly only $90,000 was paid to the victim, who was owed $380,000. In this instance, Bhukta was entitled to 20 percent of the settlement.
In total, Bhukta allegedly stole $296,700 from the two clients and allegedly spent the money on work and personal expenses.
Bhukta was arraigned before Judge Christopher Quinn on charges of second- and- third-degree grand larceny and two counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree. He was released on his own recognizance and is due back in court on Jan. 24. If convicted of the top count, Bhukta 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,” Singas said in the release. “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.”
Both clients filed claims with New York Lawyer’s Fund for Client Protection and received the money they were owed in full. The fund protects legal consumers from dishonest conduct in the practice of law.
Bhukta was disbarred on last July by the New York State Appellate Division, Second Department. Senior Assistant District Attorneys Heidi Bausk of Singas’s Financial Crimes Bureau is prosecuting this case, and Brian Davis, Esq. is representing the defendant.
The charges are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless found guilty.
If you think you may be a victim of this defendant, please call the NCDA’s Tip Line at (516) 571-7755
— Compiled by Andrew Garcia