The Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau today obtained a state grand jury indictment charging Joseph J. Talafous Jr., 53, of Toms River, with second-degree counts of theft by deception and misapplication of entrusted property.
Between November 2008 and November 2010, Talafous allegedly used a power of attorney to make numerous unauthorized withdrawals from an investment account of the elderly client and, after the client died in early 2010, from the client’s estate. Talafous, whose law practice was based in Jersey City, allegedly falsely represented that the withdrawals, which totaled $96,020, represented fees for legal services. However, Talafous never submitted any bills or records of legal services to support the withdrawals. He allegedly stole $61,175 from the investment account and $34,845 from the estate.
This matter was referred to the Division of Criminal Justice by the New Jersey Office of Attorney Ethics. The Supreme Court of New Jersey disbarred Talafous, revoking his license to practice law in August 2015.
“Lawyers are supposed to diligently guard the interests of their clients, but instead Talafous allegedly took advantage of this elderly client to the tune of $96,000, repeatedly stealing from the ailing man while he lived and then continuing to steal from his estate,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “Talafous’ conduct was deplorable.”
“Through prosecutions such as this one, we are working to safeguard the public from unscrupulous attorneys,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We will not tolerate lawyers who abuse their licenses and break the law.”
Deputy Attorneys General Janet R. Bosi and Naju R. Lathia presented the case to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau. They investigated with Detective Scott Stevens of the Division of Criminal Justice, under the supervision of Lt. Harry Maronpot and Deputy Attorney General Michael A. Monahan, who is Bureau Chief.
Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000. The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Hudson County, where Talafous will be arraigned on the charges at a later date.