A disbarred attorney from Freeport was arrested Wednesday on grand larceny charges for allegedly stealing settlement money from clients, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said March 12.
Reinelda Elizabeth Urena de Checo, 39, was arraigned Wednesday afternoon at the Nassau County District Court in Hempstead after being charged with two counts of third-degree grand larceny, court records show.
Prosecutors said Urena de Checo – who was admitted to practice law in 2003 – was hired the owner of a Hempstead barber shop in June 2013 to represent him in a civil case and that the business owner gave the lawyer $10,000 in cash, which was supposed to be used to pay for a settlement. Authorities said Urena de Checo mailed a check – which was drawn on an escrow account – to the attorney representing the other party in the lawsuit, but the check was returned for insufficient funds and the money was never paid.
The same month, a Hempstead restaurant owner also hired Urena de Checo in a landlord-tenant case, the district attorney’s office said. In that matter, the client allegedly gave her a check for $10,600 to be used towards a settlement in the case. Prosecutors said Urena de Cehco cashed the check and never forwarded the money to the other party in the case.
The district attorney’s office launched an investigation after receiving a complaint and Urena de Checo resigned from practicing law this past January.
A Jan. 31 article in the New York Law Journal said Urena de Cehco’s resignation noted a disciplinary investigation with evidence that could result in professional misconduct charges. A court order – issued two days earlier – which prohibits her from practicing law for at least seven years, said Urena de Checo “acknowledges that she would not be able to successfully defend herself on the merits against such [professional disciplinary] charges.”
At her arraignment Wednesday afternoon, Urena de Checo pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges and was released without bail, but was ordered to check in with probation officers.
She is due back in court on March 24 and faces up to seven years in prison, if convicted.