A New York attorney was sentenced in federal court in Oakalnd today, Wednesday, to two years in prison and ordered to pay back more than $1 million stolen from a deceased El Cerrito resident.
The attorney, Igor Purlantov, 35, pleaded guilty to defrauding his "family friend," the late Mohamad Ibrahim Darwish Haj Ali, an El Cerrito resident who died Oct. 29, 2004, according to the U.S. Attorney General's office for Northern California.
The fraud scheme, which involved forged signatures to access Darwish's Swiss bank account, occurred from October 2004 through February 2005, the Attorney General's office said in a news release.
The conviction follows a two-year investigation by the FBI and IRS, the release said. He was sentenced by United States District Court Judge Saundra B. Armstrong.
Purlantov was convicted of wire fraud and tax evasion. After Purlantov illegally transferred the money from Darwish's account to his own accounts in London and New York, he "then failed to pay taxes on the stolen income," the Attorney General's office said.
"In his plea agreement, Purlantov accepted full responsibility and agreed to fully reimburse the beneficiaries of his deceased friend in the amount of $1,175,666 and to pay back taxes to the IRS in the amount of $293,048.25," according to the news release.
When Darwish died, he had approximately $3,395,250 in an HSBC Private Bank account in Geneva, Switzerland, according to a civil complaint filed against Purlantov on behalf of his estate by the Pt. Richmond law firm Genser & Watkins. Shortly before Darwish died, Purlantov forged the victim's name on a letter instructing the bank to add Purlantov as a joint account holder, the complaint says. Further documents with Darwish's forged signature were submitted 20 days after he died, according to the complaint.
The prosecution was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Maureen Bessette, assisted by supervisor legal tech Kathleen Turner, the Attorney General's office said.