Santa Clara County prosecutors have charged a 41-yearold divorce attorney with grand theft, alleging that the San Jose lawyer embezzled more than $800,000 from his clients' trust account.
Deputy District Attorney Christine Garcia-Sen said Daniel Burt Halpern of San Jose now faces two counts of felony grand theft and an aggravated white collar crime enhancement.
He has not yet entered a plea, which has been scheduled for Nov. 7. On Thursday, he was in custody on $1 million bail, and has decided to represent himself in court. Through a jail spokesman, he declined to comment .
Garcia-Sen said that a couple who was in the midst of getting divorced had sought Halpern's counsel. They were dividing up the proceeds of their home, she said, which they had sold in April 2011. They were holding this money - $858,315 - was being held in a trust account, awaiting a court's decision on how to divide it.
The couple was alerted to the loss, prosecutors said, when the wife’s divorce attorney was contacted by the State Bar and advised that the funds might be in jeopardy. Neither the man or the woman gave Halpern permission to move the funds or use the funds in any way, Garcia-Sen said.
Garcia-Sen said that all of the money had been "systematically withdrawn from the trust account and deposited into Halpern’s personal bank account," which now has no money in it.
If convicted of all counts, the maximum penalty is nearly nine years in prison.
Anyone with information about this case should contact District Attorney Investigator John Carillo at 408-792-2977.