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Ex-attorney pleads guilty, stole over $4 million

Valerie Patriarca and Andrea Day
In an interview, James Kalpakis told CNBC, "If I have to work the rest of my life to make things right, I will do that."
Source: Nassau County District Attorney's Office

James Kalpakis, a former attorney from Old Westbury, N.Y., has pleaded guilty to stealing over $4.3 million in fraudulent real estate deals between 2008 and 2011, including over $400,000 from his own wife.

Kalpakis, who has orchestrated fraudulent deals in New York for well over a decade, could get up to 10 years in prison for his crimes in Nassau County. He also faces charges in New York City and Suffolk County.

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Kalpakis voluntarily resigned from the bar in 2005 after being hit with six charges of professional misconduct, including improperly paying himself from a client's escrow account and failing to keep proper records on the accounts.

Kalpakis maintained his fraud, however, according to Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice.

Ex-attorney pleads guilty

"He was literally a one-man financial crime wave," Rice said. "He kept putting himself out there as a lawyer. He kept engaging in victims, taking their money and doing it just because he could and because he wanted to pay for his lifestyle."

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According to authorities, Kalpakis kept presenting himself as an attorney in real estate deals, forging mortgage documents to obtain loans and stealing money from client escrow accounts—just as he had been caught doing in 2005.

In one such case, he forged the deeds to four homes he did not own and was not authorized to sell. He then sold all four as investment properties to a local resident.

Authorities told CNBC that the victim, who trusted Kalpakis as a friend and member of the community, saw only one of the four properties before buying them.

Bette Kalpakis, now his ex-wife, was also a victim. According to the charges, Kalpakis conned her out of $402,152 by forging power of attorney on a mortgage loan with JPMorgan Chase for their Old Westbury residence, whose deed was in her name. He got the loan without her knowledge, then pocketed the money.

Sources also told CNBC that Kalpakis even victimized a girlfriend in a bogus business deal.

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Kalpakis told CNBC that he regretted everything he has done and intends to pay back everything.

"I know it's crazy and people will roll their eyes when I say I didn't attempt to steal money from anyone, but that wasn't my intention," he said. "I want to show that I'm truly sorry and regret everything that I've done in my life. I don't want to hide from what I've done; I don't want to run from what I've done. I want to take responsibility. ... And if I have to work the rest of my life to make things right, I will do that."

Kalpakis, who pleaded guilty to grand larceny in the first degree and second degree, is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 3 in Nassau County.

By CNBC's Andrea Day; follow her on Twitter @AndreaDay.
By CNBC's Valerie Patriarca; follow her on Twitter @PatriarcaCNBC.