Janice Jessup’s client was owed seven-figure sum from the eminent domain acquisition of her property
MINEOLA, N.Y. – Acting Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced that a former attorney from Baldwin surrendered to the DA’s office today to be arraigned on an indictment charging her with stealing more than $1 million from a physically and mentally disabled client who was owed the money from the eminent domain acquisition of her property, which was used for the subsequent building of the Yes We Can Community Center in Westbury.
Janice Jessup, 67, currently of Charlotte, N.C., was charged with Grand Larceny in the 1st Degree (a B felony) and Scheme to Defraud in the 1st Degree (an E felony). Acting Supreme Court Justice Jerald Carter set bail at $150,000 bond or $100,000 cash. Jessup, who is also known by the married name Janice Jones, faces a maximum sentence of 8-1/3 to 25 years in prison and is due back in court on April 15.
“This former attorney has been arrested and charged with a high-dollar, elaborate larceny that targeted a severely disabled woman and defrauded the court system and taxpayers of Nassau County,” Acting DA Singas said. “My office will continue to work diligently to hold accountable those who steal from innocent victims and defraud the public.”
Acting DA Singas said that Jessup was retained in 2007 by the Westbury family of a mentally and physically disabled woman to represent her in a $1.2 million eminent domain action involving real property that was subsequently developed into the Yes We Can Community Center in Westbury. Jessup received the funds by court order as the attorney for her client in 2008.
Jessup’s client never saw the money, which Jessup is alleged to have spent on various unauthorized personal, business and other expenses that included direct payments to herself and members of her family, as well as payments to other law clients of hers.
During the eminent domain litigation, the Nassau County Supreme Court ordered that approximately $1.2 million, which was an advanced payment on any potential amount to be paid, be released by the Nassau County Treasury to compensate the owner of the property. However, as Jessup requested that the funds be released to her as the attorney for her severely disabled client, the court inquired about the residency of Jessup’s client, who was not in court, and whether the client had the mental and physical capacity to consent to the funds being released to her attorney.
Rather than producing her client, Jessup submitted to the court a power of attorney authorizing a family member of the client to act on the client’s behalf, as well as an affidavit allegedly signed by her client stating, in part, that she was aware of the court proceedings, was physically disabled, was living at a relative’s home in Westbury, and that she consented to the funds being released to Jessup as her attorney.
After a court-appointed referee made at two Westbury house visits to investigate the physical and mental capacities of Jessup’s client, as well as her residency and her consent to the funds being released to Jessup, the court issued an order on or about September 12, 2008 authorizing the funds to be released to the client and to Jessup as her attorney. In reality, however, Jessup’s client had been living in a north shore care facility since 2006, and Jessup allegedly arranged for another person to impersonate her client.
Prosecutors became aware of the scheme in 2013 when a complaint was filed with the Nassau DA’s Office, which investigated the case. Jessup was disbarred in 2010 after she submitted her resignation while facing unrelated allegations of professional misconduct.
Bureau Chief Marshall Trager and Assistant District Attorney Brian Heid of Acting DA Singas’ Government and Consumer Frauds Bureau are prosecuting the case. Jessup is represented by Henry Jones, Esq.