An Ocean County lawyer has been found guilty of stealing $1.5 million from his clients over a decade’s time.
Joseph J. Talafous Jr., 55, faces up to 10 years in prison for taking money from five clients, many of whom were elderly or vulnerable, between October 2004 and May 2015, Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino said.
A jury verdict came on Wednesday after a six-week trial before Hudson County Superior Court Judge Mirtha Ospina.
Talafous, of Toms River, had a law firm in Jersey City.
“Lawyers have a duty to uphold the law and protect the interests of their clients, but Talafous treated his law license like a license to steal, sinking to the point of stealing nearly half a million dollars from a young boy who lost his father,” Porrino said. “This verdict will send Talafous to prison, where he belongs for his deplorable conduct.”
The jury found Talafous guilty on six counts of thefts, five counts of misapplication, two counts of theft by deception, and four counts of filing fraudulent state income tax returns. The crimes he was convicted of include stealing from the estates of four Jersey City clients and from a trust fund for a young boy whose father had died. Talafous also failed to report income on tax returns from 2011 to 2014, officials said.
Talafous had his law license revoked in August 2015 and was later indicted for stealing nearly $100,000 from a client’s estate. That investigation led to more charges against the disbarred lawyer.
He is expected to be sentenced in Hudson County Superior Court in Jersey City on Feb. 16.
Caitlin Mota may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @caitlin_mota.