A San Jose attorney was sentenced to state prison Thursday on charges he embezzled more than $860,000 from a client in 2011, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office. Judge Daniel Nishigaya sentenced David Halpern, who practiced family and bankruptcy law, to four years and four months following his no contest plea on May 22, the district attorney’s office said.
Nishigaya also sentenced Halpern to three years of supervised parole after he gets out of prison, prosecutors said. Halpern had pleaded to two counts of grand theft with an “excessive taking” enhancement involving a theft of more than $500,000, prosecutors said. The case was the result of an investigation by the district attorney’s office into Halpern’s law practice that began in October 2012.
The office found that Halpern had transferred to his personal bank account all of the funds held in a trust account for a client, prosecutors said The client, Charles Jok, had retained Halpern in early 2011 to handle Jok’s divorce case, prosecutors said. Jok and his then-wife Angela had been married for 10 years and had bought a home in San Jose in 2005 by using proceeds from the sale of their separate residences and the rest of their life’s savings for a down payment, according to prosecutors.
By 2011, the home’s worth stood at $1.2 million and was by far the couple’s biggest asset, prosecutors said. The Joks decided to sell the home and place the net sale proceeds, $860,071.41, into an account and figure out how to split the revenue during the divorce case, prosecutors said.
They entrusted the funds to Halpern, who placed it into the trust account but immediately started making large withdrawals completely unrelated to the divorce proceedings, prosecutors said. Halpern used the couple’s funds to subsidize his failing law practice and maintain a comfortable lifestyle until the money was gone eight months later, prosecutors said.
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