Watchdog wannabe fails with sniffing out a thief right under his nose
Right under the nose — or, more literally, directly over the head — of the hopeful watchdog for the city of New York was a crooked attorney lifting almost $2 million from an elderly couple.
Gerald Douglas was arraigned on Thursday in Brooklyn Supreme Court for withholding $1.7 million in proceeds from the sale of 11A Spencer Place in Bedford-Stuyvesant and stealing over $650,000 from the owners.
“This defendant was trusted with funds that he was obligated to give to his clients. Instead, he allegedly betrayed that trust and kept $650,000 of his retired clients’ money,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez.
Douglas, 50, provided legal services through the law firm Douglas & Associates P.C., located at 4517 Avenue D. The two-story East Flatbush building is also the district office for Councilmember Jumaane D. Williams, who is currently a candidate for the city’s Public Advocate. Neither Douglas nor Councilmember Williams are the owners of the property, public records show.
Councilmember Williams’ office is on the ground floor, and Douglas’ is stationed on the second, said Kevin Fagan, a spokesman for the councilmember.
Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun set $100,000 bond or $500,000 cash for Douglas. If convicted, Douglas faces up to 15 years in prison for the second-degree grand larceny charge.
From August 2016 to March 2017, Douglas represented the married couple, ages 70 and 71 years old, for the sale of the nine-story building. At the closing meeting in September 2016, Douglas received checks of almost $1.5 million for the balance owed towards the down payment and deposited them into his escrow account, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said Douglas sent the retired couple some of the funds sporadically with checks and wire transfers totalling $900,000, but still failed to turn over approximately $650,000 despite repeated requests.
“These allegations are disturbing. We trust that the justice system will move forward,” said Fagan, who did not confirm if any constituents filed any complaints with the councilmember.
On the legal ratings website avv.com, an anonymous reviewer said Douglas also duped her mother during a real estate transaction in 2015. “He took the consulation [sic] fee, in addition to $800 and did absolutely nothing; and would not accept phone calls. I am reporting him to the judicial district.”
Brooklyn DA Gonzalez is also asking for anyone who believes they were victimized by this defendant to call the District Attorney’s Office at 718-250-2600.
Calls to Douglas’ office were not answered.