A disbarred attorney from Bayside has admitted to swindling dozens of clients out of nearly $2 million, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.
Yohan Choi, 47, pleaded guilty to grand larceny on Monday, Jan. 31, before Queens Criminal Court Judge Eugene Guarino for bilking more than 50 clients, whom he represented before and after he was barred from practicing law.
Choi, of 23rd Avenue in Bayside, operated a law office on Northern Boulevard in Flushing and was charged in two separate criminal complaints. At the time of his plea, Choi signed 28 confessions of judgement to repay in excess of $1.8 million to “make his victims whole,” according to the DA’s office.
According to the charges, Choi held bank accounts for his law practice at several financial institutions, including Chase, Capitol One and HSBC. A forensic examination of these accounts showed dozens of deposits for lawsuit settlements on behalf of Choi’s clients.
According to court records, in November 2016, a woman the defendant represented in a personal injury lawsuit agreed to settle a case for $52,500.The victim was entitled to just over $35,000, however, she never received any money from the settlement.
Another client of Choi’s settled her lawsuit in May 2018 for $75,000.
After the lawyer’s fee and other expenses were deducted the victim should have received just over $50,000. Choi never turned over that money, despite the insurance company depositing a check totaling $75,000 into his account.
Katz said a man who also hired Choi to represent him in a personal injury case agreed to settle for $45,000 and was entitled to receive $30,150. The investigation showed that Choi’s bank account received a check from the insurance company for $45,000 on May 12, 2020. Three days later, that same escrow account totaled just $423. The victim never received the money he was due, Katz said.
According to the charges, Choi repeated this scheme at least 50 times over the course of five years. Clients due varying sums of money — from as little as $1,000 to more than $50,000 — were left empty-handed.
In each instance, Choi’s business accounts show the checks were deposited — totaling more than $1.8 million — but his victims were never issued a check they were due.
Choi’s license to practice law was suspended in November 2017.
“As a member of the bar, this defendant took an oath to uphold the law. Unfortunately, his greed overpowered his sense of duty and between August 2015 and August 2020 he failed to turn over more than $1.8 million to clients who had settled personal injury claims,” Katz said. “The defendant has pleaded guilty and now he will be held accountable.”
Judge Guarino set the sentencing for April 6 and indicated he will order Choi to serve 1 1/2 to 4 1/2 years in prison.