FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Weekday, Month 00, 2019
Brooklyn Woman Who Allegedly Pretended to be a Lawyer Indicted for Stealing $4,700 From Three Clients She Fraudulently Represented
Allegedly Held Herself Out to Be Licensed Attorney to Advise Clients in
Academic Hearing, Divorce Action and Employment Negotiation
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a Brooklyn woman has been arraigned on an indictment in which she is charged with grand larceny, identity theft, practicing law without a license and related charges for falsely claiming to be an attorney and defrauding three clients of $4,700.
District Attorney Gonzalez said, “I strongly recommend that people facing legal challenges check the credentials of their attorneys on the website of the Office of Court Administration. The database contains the names, addresses and telephone numbers of attorneys licensed to practice in New York State and may be accessed here.”
The District Attorney identified the defendant as Natasha Riley, 56, of Flatbush, Brooklyn. She was arraigned today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Laura Johnson on a 17-count indictment in which she is charged with third-degree grand larceny, first-degree scheme to defraud, first- and second-degree identity theft, second-degree criminal impersonation, practicing or appearing as an attorney-at-law without being admitted or registered, and other related charges. She was ordered held on bail of $10,000 bond or $2,500 cash and to return to court on August 7, 2019.
It is alleged that from January 2017 to January 2019, according to the indictment, the defendant fraudulently claimed to be a licensed attorney and worked out of an office located at 150 Kenilworth Place in Flatbush.
The defendant allegedly told her clients that her name was “Natasha Riley-Applewhite.” There is an actual attorney named Natasha Applewhite licensed to practice in New York, but that attorney’s full name is Natasha Holly Applewhite — an attorney in good standing who has no affiliation with defendant Natasha Riley. It is alleged that the defendant adopted the name Applewhite to create the impression that she was a properly licensed attorney.
The investigation began after Natasha Applewhite learned that the defendant was using her name and filed a complaint with the District Attorney’s Action Center.
The alleged victims of the scam, according to the indictment, include a college student who allegedly paid the defendant $500 to accompany her to an academic hearing at her college. The victim also allegedly paid more than $3,000 to obtain a trademark for a not-for-profit organization she formed. She has not obtained the trademark.
The defendant also represented a litigant in a divorce action and appeared as counsel in Kings County Supreme Court, for which she was allegedly paid $700.
The defendant represented a third client in employment negotiations with the victim’s former employer, for which she was allegedly paid $500.
Anyone who believes they were a victim of this scheme should call the District Attorney’s Action Center at 718-250-2340.
The case was investigated by Detective Investigators assigned to the District Attorney’s Investigations Bureau.
The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Joseph DiBenedetto of the District Attorney’s Frauds Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Gavin Miles, Counsel to the Frauds Bureau, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division.
An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.