For release on June 13, 2013
Victor Chen, Deputy District Attorney
Major Fraud Unit
Economic Crimes Unit
ATTORNEY SENTENCED TO PRISON FOR STEALING $860,000 FROM CLIENT
In October 2012, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office opened an investigation into attorney Daniel Halpern’s law practice and quickly discovered the embezzlement perpetrated by the defendant from April 2011 to December 2011. Bank records revealed multiple transfers from Halpern’s client trust account to his personal bank account or law office account. Credit card and ATM receipts reflected numerous expenditures solely for Halpern’s personal benefit ranging from expensive meals to shopping trips to large cash withdraws.
In early 2011, Charles Jok hired Daniel Halpern, a family law attorney based out of San Jose, to represent him in a divorce proceeding. The main asset from Joks’ ten-year marriage was a $1.2 million dollar home located in San Jose which he and his wife, Angela, had purchased in May of 2005. The down payment for this home came from the sale of their separate residences and their life savings to date. In 2011, the Joks agreed to sell the home with a split of the proceeds to be determined at a future court hearing. The home was listed and quickly sold in April 2011. Halpern agreed to place the net sale proceeds, a tidy sum of $860,071.41, into his trust account for safe keeping until the issue of how the money was to be divided up between Mr. and Mrs. Jok could be settled.
After depositing the Joks’ money into his trust account, Halpern immediately began making large withdraws for expenses wholly unrelated to the advancement of the Joks’ divorce case. Instead, Halpern spent thousands of dollars to pay the overhead on his failing law practice. In addition, hundreds of thousands of dollars were siphoned off by Halpern so he could maintain a comfortable lifestyle. Within eight months, Halpern had squandered all of the money.
On May 22, 2013, Halpern entered a Nolo Contendere plea before Judge Nishigaya to two felony counts of Grand Theft and admitted an Excessive Taking Enhancement: theft of an amount over $500,000.
On June 13, 2013, Halpern was sentenced to serve 4 years, 4 months in state prison followed by 3 years of parole supervision.