Toms River ex-lawyer indicted on theft charges
A disbarred lawyer from Toms River appears headed for trial on allegations that he defrauded five clients out of $1,528,022 over nearly 11 years.
The19-count indictment issued Monday against Joseph Talafous, 53, supersedes a November 2015 indictment that specified one client, according to the office of acting New Jersey Attorney General Robert Lougy.
He faces one first-degree money-laundering charge, three second-degree counts of theft by unlawful taking, four second-degree counts of theft by failure to make required disposition of property, five second-degree chargesof misapplication of entrusted property, two second-degree counts of theft by deception, and four third-degree charges of filing fraudulent state income tax returns.
Talafous risks decades in prison if all charges lead to convictions, and if sentences are consecutive.
The money laundering count carries a possible penalty of 10 to 20 years, with mandatory parole ineligibility of one-third to one-half of the imposed sentence, to run consecutively with related sentences. It also carries a possible fine of up to $500,000.
Each second-degree charge can mean five to 10 years in prison and maximum $150,000. Third-degree counts are punishable by sentences of three to five years and fines up to $15,000.
Talafous maintained a practice in Jersey City. Investigators said that the incidents took place between October 2004 and May 2015.
In 2008, Talafous was among 52 attorneys around the state cited for meritorious service by the New Jersey Supreme Court, for volunteer service in district fee arbitration. The high court revoked his license in August 2015.
A Mercer County judge ordered his arraignment to take place in Hudson County court in Jersey City. According to prosecutors:
- He is accused of using power of attorney to withdraw $78,202 from an elderly Jersey City client's investment account, and from the estate after the client died in 2010.
- Prosecutors contend that Talafous took about $402,418 from a West New York boy's trust fund that was established in 2005 with a wrongful-death award stemming from the death of the youngster's father in a 2001 workplace accident.
- In 2009, authorities said, he allegedly removed about $316,275 from the estate of a deceased Jersey City woman who had no immediate family, and who had retained him to draw up her will and execute the estate.
- Talafous is accused of diverting $406,076 from the estate of a Jersey City man who died in 2012, whose family hired him to tend to the legal details of the estate, including life insurance policies valued at more than $870,000.
- He is also accused of taking $325,051 placed in his trust as counsel for a Jersey City woman with property in New Jersey and New York.
- Talafous is also charged with failing to report the misappropriations in his New Jersey income tax returns for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.
The Attorney General's office did not supply details regarding Talafous's legal representation.