A disbarred attorney from Wading River was sentenced today to 24 months in federal prison for a wire fraud scheme in which she stole $2 million from victims who believed they were giving her money to invest in real estate, U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue announced this afternoon.
Alice Belmonte, 53, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Denis Hurley and ordered to pay $2 million in restitution.
Belmonte pleaded guilty to wire fraud in September 2017.
“Belmonte, after she was disbarred in holding herself out as an experienced practicing attorney, prevailed upon investors to trust her with their money and then stole it from them,” Donoghue said. “With today’s sentence, she has been held responsible for her crime.”
Shortly after being disbarred for misconduct in February 2013,
Belmonte held herself out as an attorney who could assist clients in acquiring real estate investments. She communicated with her victim investors with emails sent from her “[email protected]” address, according to prosecutors.
Relying on Belmonte’s purported expertise, the investors deposited $2 million into an escrow account she opened. According to prosecutors, between March and June 2013, Belmonte contacted the escrow agent, using falsified email addresses in the names of her victims, and sent fraudulent instructions purporting to authorize the transfer of the $2 million to a second bank account she controlled in the name, “Alice Phillips Belmonte Attorney Escrow Account.” Belmonte then diverted the funds to yet additional accounts she controlled by forging fraudulent disbursement instructions, ostensibly from one of the victims. The victims’ money was never invested in real estate for them, nor did they receive their money back, the U.S. attorney’s office said.
Charged in October 2013 in a 49-count indictment with stealing about $4 million in a wide-ranging real estate Ponzi scheme, Belmont pleaded guilty to grand larceny and forged instrument charges on June 11, 2014 and was sentenced to three to nine years in state prison. She served approximately 30 months in Albion state prison before being released on parole in April 2016.
In a sentencing memorandum, Belmonte’s attorneys argued that the state and federal cases arose out of the same set of facts. The prosecutors took the opposite view.
“Regardless, the defendant pled guilty in the New York County case with full knowledge of the instant federal investigation, and no joint disposition was contemplated, broached or discussed. Accordingly, the instant indictment is not duplicative, and the resulting sentence from the court is in no way redundant or otherwise unjust,” the U.S. attorney’s office said in its sentencing memorandum
The sentence was imposed today in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Central Islip.
Belmonte’s husband and mother were active in Riverhead town politics. Her husband, William, was a Democratic town board candidate and the running mate of Supervisor Phil Cardinale in 2005. After his unsuccessful campaign, he was hired as executive director by the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency, a job he left in October 2008.
Belmonte’s mother, Lois Phillips, also an attorney, mounted two unsuccessful campaigns for Riverhead Town Justice, in 2000 against Allen Smith and in 2003 against Richard Ehlers. Phillips died in July 2008.
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