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DA: Long Island man who posed as lawyer convicted in $5M theft

A gavel sits atop a judge's desk in a courtroom. (File Photo)
A gavel sits atop a judge's desk in a courtroom. (File Photo)
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A Long Island man who held himself out to be an attorney – despite the fact he isn’t one – was convicted of stealing more than $5 million from clients through real estate and capital investment transactions, Queens prosecutors said Friday.

Mohammed Rafikian, 54, of Westbury, was convicted Thursday on a slew of felony offenses after a two-month trial at Queens Criminal Court. Prosecutors say the charges include grand larceny, criminal impersonation, scheme to defraud and practicing law without a license. At his sentencing in October, Rafikian faces up to 50 years in prison.

Prosecutors said Rafikian, also known as Mo Kian, had been practicing law out of an Astoria office from March 2000 to December 2005. During that period, authorities allege he stole approximately $5 million from seven people. The victims came from a wide variety of backgrounds. Prosecutors said they were a cardiologist, a dentist, a bar manager, a retired disabled elevator mechanic, a housing department inspector, painting contractor and a family friend of Rafikian.

According to the district attorney’s office, Rafikian took $3.2 million from one of the victims and promised to invest the funds. He allegedly said they would see a 26 percent return on the case. Investigators said he never provided any investment statements and never returned the money.

Another victim allegedly gave Rafikian more than $900,000 to buy a building in Astoria. But prosecutors said he never purchased the property and then kept the cash. Rafikian did supposedly sell a Laundromat business for the victim – at $75,000 – but only passed along $12,000, the district attorney’s office said.

In a third instance, a victim testified that they have Rafikian more than $800,000 to buy a home and a bar. Prosecutors say Rafikian never made the purchases and again failed to return the money to the victim. The circumstances of the other four incidents were not immediately known.

“A Queens jury has convicted the defendant of impersonating an attorney and practicing law without a license in order to defraud seven individuals of amounts ranging from $63,000 to $3.2 million,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said. “Evidence presented at trial showed that the defendant engaged in very risky day trading of stocks and ran up negative balances of $5 million in his accounts. Needing to find a way to cover his losses, the defendant took over the law practice of an attorney who had become suddenly ill and misrepresented himself as an attorney.”

Rafikian has been arrested in 2004 for the alleged crimes and was convicted at trial three years later, when a judge sentenced him to serve 50 years behind bars. Prosecutors said he represented himself in court, and without a lawyer appealed his conviction to the state’s appellate division. In 2012, appellate court judges ruled that Rafikian’s waiver of an attorney was “not knowing an voluntary.”

Authorities said Rafikian has been held behind bars without bail since his initial arrest. Rafikian was being held at Riker’s Island. Neither he nor his lawyer could be reached for comment.

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