Yvonne DeBenedetto, 46, Bay Shore, New York, an attorney, has been sentenced to two to six years in prison after she pleaded guilty to stealing more than $573,000 from clients who hired her to represent them in real estate deals.
The defendant pleaded guilty to Grand Larceny in the Second Degree in September 2011. She was sentenced by Judge Francis Ricigliano.
In August 2009, DeBenedetto was given a check for $260,000 by a client to be held in escrow for the purchase of a new home. When the purchase of the home fell through, the client requested her money back. DeBenedetto issued her client two refund checks in December 2009 and January 2010, both of which bounced.
In a separate incident in early 2009, DeBenedetto was retained by a different couple to handle the sale of their current home and purchase of a new home. As per an agreement between the victims and the purchasers of their home, $30,000 was to be held in escrow from the purchase of their home to ensure that the victims had vacated their home on time. After doing so, the victims requested that DeBenedetto issue them the escrow money. When they went to cash the check, however, they discovered that DeBenedetto had stopped payment on it.
In addition, DeBenedetto stole $19,000 from a client she represented in a real estate deal that failed to close, $80,000 from a client she represented in a home sale, and more than $180,000 that was being held in escrow following the sale of a client’s home. DeBenedetto also forged the signature of a client she represented in an accident case on a settlement check for $4,000 and cashed it.
DeBenedetto stopped practicing law in December 2010 due to her involvement in this case and resigned from the New York Bar Association for disciplinary reasons.
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced the sentence.
Assistant District Attorney Peter Mancuso of the Government & Consumer Frauds Bureau is prosecuting the case for the DA’s Office. DeBenedetto is represented by Michael Soshnick, Esq.
“Instead of respecting the trust place in her by her clients, this defendant used it to rob them blind,” Rice said. “She revealed herself to be nothing more than a common thief, and this sentence ensures that she will no longer be able to victimize another client.”