A disbarred Nassau County attorney was sentenced on Wednesday to 2 and a half to 7 and a half years in prison for stealing more than $785,000 from 22 clients.
Steven Morelli had pleaded guilty in April to three counts of second-degree grand larceny and five counts of third-degree grand larceny. On Wednesday, Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Helene Gugerty imposed the prison sentence on Morelli, according to Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, whose office announced it.
The punishment included an order that Morelli, 61, pay restitution of more than $600,000. Before pleading guilty, he’d already paid $170,000, Singas noted.
“This defendant’s clients trusted him to advocate on their behalf and protect their interests, but instead he betrayed them and stole hundreds of thousands in settlement funds,” Singas said in a statement. “This prosecution ensures that this unscrupulous lawyer will be held accountable for his crimes.”
Because he pleaded guilty to a felony, Morelli was disbarred by New York state earlier this year, Singas said.
While running the Law Office of Steven A. Morelli in Garden City, Morelli misused $150,000 in settlement checks from four clients between February 2015 and August 2015, Singas added. Continuing investigations by her office and Nassau County police revealed 13 more victims and $573,000 in stolen funds; and later five additional victims from whom he stole $64,000.
Morelli spent the money on personal things and to continue his law practice, Singas said, giving no more detail.
Morelli, previously a partner at Leeds Morelli & Brown, graduated from New York Law School and worked as a litigator for more than 30 years, focusing on employment discrimination and education, his law firm’s website has said.
His attorney, Marc Gann, a partner at Collins Gann McCloskey & Barry in Mineola, couldn’t be reached for comment.