A former Bridgeport attorney was arrested Wednesday and charged with one count of second-degree larceny in connection with the alleged theft of nearly $10,000 from a client in a bankruptcy and a foreclosure case.
According to an arrest warrant application, New Jersey resident Alfred Cali, while practicing law in Bridgeport in 2016, deposited into his personal account a check for $9,614 that he received from his client, Fidel Morales.
Morales had paid Cali a $20,000 retainer.
Cali, the arrest warrant says, advised Morales that he should write him a $9,614 check for cash. He told Morales that the money would go into his attorney’s trustee account and then the funds would be forwarded to the lender, according to the arrest warrant. Cali, however, deposited the money into his personal bank account and never made a payment to the lender, authorities said.
Since the mortgage holder did not receive the adequate protection payments as ordered, Morales’ bankruptcy petition and home were in jeopardy.
Cali, 61, was arrested in New Jersey and brought back to Connecticut by inspectors from the Statewide Prosecution Bureau in the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney. He was arrested on a warrant charging him with second-degree larceny, which is a felony. The Statewide Prosecution Bureau was following up on a complaint from the state’s Statewide Grievance Committee.
In February 2016, Cali appeared before the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Connecticut in Hartford. When asked by the court why the agreed-upon payments had not been made to Morales’ lender, he told the court he didn’t know, according to the arrest warrant.
Between March and September 2016, the arrest warrant continues, the Connecticut Statewide Grievance Committee sent six notices by registered mail to Cali’s office and home. The notices sent to his office were returned marked as “unable to forward.” Those sent to his home address were not returned, authorities said.
On May 26, 2016, Cali was suspended from the practice of law after failing to appear at an interim suspension hearing.
The attorney, who previously practiced law with the Bridgeport firm of Cali & Pol, was arraigned in Bridgeport Superior Court on Wednesday by Judge Tracy Lee Dayton. Dayton ordered Cali held in lieu of a $50,000 bond. The case was continued to Oct. 31 and Cali faces up to 10 years in prison.
The Statewide Prosecution Bureau is handling the case. Mark Dupuis, communications officer for the state’s Division of Criminal Justice, said there would be no comment from authorities on the matter.
Cali is represented by Thomas Cocco of the Bridgeport-based Cocco & Ginsberg, LLC. Cocco told the Connecticut Law Tribune Thursday that, “Everything is not always as it seems. We shouldn’t jump to judgement. Everybody deserves their day in court.”