MIDTOWN — A disbarred Midtown lawyer will spend between 3 and 9 years in prison after pleading guilty last month to stealing millions of dollars from clients, including missionaries working in South Africa.
A judge sentenced Philip Teplen, of Fairfield, Conn., for pillaging clients of more than $2 million when Teplen operated a law office out of the Empire State Building.
In April 2011, a client named Teplen his agent in order to finalize a $3.5 million loan from a financing company, according to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. Instead of helping his client disburse the money, Teplen stole more than $2 million from him, using the cash to pay for personal expenses and investments and to reimburse clients he had previously stolen from, Vance said.
Teplen’s misdeeds continued in March 2012, when he was working out of a law office at 708 Third Ave. in Midtown East, according to the DA.
A client asked Teplen to deposit a check for about $135,000 to a Christian missionary group working in South Africa, but instead Teplen stole more than $100,000, Vance said.
The disgraced attorney has paid the client back some of what he stole but still owes her about $82,000, according to Vance.
In May 2014, Teplen then represented the seller of a co-op apartment in Harlem and was supposed to hold a $69,500 deposit paid by the buyers in an escrow account until the sale closed, Vance said. When the buyers canceled the purchase and became entitled to the deposit in July of that year, the money had vanished.
Teplen was already in the process of resigning from the bar in response to another theft complaint against him when the 2014 incident occurred, said Vance.
“For years Philip Teplen lied to his clients and stole their money for his own personal gain,” Vance said in a statement. “He even had the audacity to continue this pattern of theft while his resignation was pending with the First Judicial Department.”
Teplen pleaded guilty to first and second degree larceny on Jan. 22.
Vance encouraged anyone who thinks they may be the victim of a financial crime to contact his office’s financial frauds hotline at 212-335-8900.
A lawyer for Teplen did not return a request for comment.