Prosecutors claim a lottery lawyer stole a $230,000 amount of a winner’s prize money to support credit card payments and pay for power bills.
Daphna Zekaria, 54, was charged with stealing money from a New York State Lottery winner in December 2021 and failing to return it.
On Tuesday, Zakaria, who maintained a practice in Huntington, New York, was arrested and prosecuted in a Long Island court by Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney.
Tierney penalized Zekaria for allegedly “violating” two clients’ trust by stealing $247,000 from them, according to Newsday.
“The duties and responsibilities of attorney-client relationships are a critically essential element of our legal system, and my office will not tolerate individuals using their law degrees as licenses to steal,” Tierney said in court.
According to investigators, Zekaria was hired in December 2021 by a New York State Lottery winner to help manage their riches.
Zekaria allegedly received three payments from the client that she promised would go into the firm’s excrow account or be invested.
Instead of securing the money, prosecutors claim Zekaria used them to make substantial payments to persons that she would not have been able to afford otherwise.
Zekaria was approached in March 2023 by another client who required help to contest eviction proceedings.
The attorney was paid $17,500 for her services but reportedly “performed no legal work on her behalf,” Tierney stated in court.
Prosecutors say the client sought for the money back 13 days after she received it, but it had already been used for credit card payments and Long Island Power Authority bills.
Zekaria has been charged with grand theft in the second and third degree, as well as a deceptive plan.
She was also charged with criminal contempt for allegedly refusing to cooperate with a subpoena for records.
Following the hearing, the judge released her on supervised release.
Her next court appearance is scheduled for December 13.
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