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Press Release

Southern District Of New York Court Employee And Criminal Defense Attorney Sentenced For Decade-Long Bribery Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that DIONISIO FIGUEROA, a/k/a “Dionicio,” a former employee of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (“SDNY”) Magistrate Clerk’s Office, and TELESFORO DEL VALLE, JR., a now-disbarred criminal defense attorney who practiced in SDNY and elsewhere for more than 20 years, were sentenced to two years and one year and one day in prison, respectively, following their convictions on conspiracy, bribery, and false statements charges.  The defendants were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Mae A. D’Agostino, sitting by designation from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York.  

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “The public relies on attorneys and court employees to maintain and validate its faith in our criminal justice system.  Del Valle, a former criminal defense attorney, and Figueroa, a longtime employee of the SDNY Clerk’s Office, betrayed criminal defendants, the public, and those who rely on the court to remain impartial.  Through their actions, Del Valle and Figueroa undermined the fair administration of justice and the work of the many good people in the courthouse who serve the criminal justice system with honesty and integrity.  Let these sentences serve as a warning to those who seek to pervert justice for personal gain.”

According to the Indictment, statements made in public court proceedings and filings, and the evidence at trial:

As a clerk in the SDNY Magistrate Clerk’s Office since in or about 2002, FIGUEROA was responsible for performing duties that included, among other things, making data entries regarding official case events in criminal cases; making summary entries of documents and proceedings on case dockets; and performing inquiries and furnishing information, either in person or by correspondence, regarding the status of cases.  FIGUEROA also played a role with respect to the intake of criminal cases, including by preparing appearance bonds, advising defendants and their family members about the conditions of the bonds, and ensuring that appearance bonds were signed by all parties prior to a defendant’s release. 

SDNY District Court personnel policies prohibited FIGUEROA from having outside employment that would pose a conflict of interest; receiving payments, gifts, or other benefits from persons having business before the District Court; and recommending particular attorneys to members of the public.  FIGUEROA also was subject to the U.S. Courts’ Code of Conduct for Judicial Employees (the “Code of Conduct”), which cautioned judicial employees that “[a] number of criminal statutes of general applicability govern federal employees’ performance of official duties.  These include:  18 U.S.C. § 201 (bribery of public officials and witnesses) . . . .”  The Code of Conduct likewise admonished that “[a] judicial employee should never influence or attempt to influence the assignment of cases, or perform any discretionary or ministerial function of the court in a manner that improperly favors any litigant or attorney, nor should a judicial employee imply that he or she is in a position to do so.” 

DEL VALLE was a private attorney who, over the course of more than two decades, had appeared in numerous federal criminal cases pending before the SDNY District Court.

Between at least 2011 and 2022, FIGUEROA and DEL VALLE engaged in a scheme whereby FIGUEROA used his position as an employee of the SDNY Magistrate Clerk’s Office to encourage criminal defendants to retain DEL VALLE to represent them in pending criminal cases.  In return, DEL VALLE paid FIGUEROA a portion of the fees that referred clients paid to DEL VALLE.  Over the course of more than a decade, FIGUEROA referred at least 45 SDNY criminal defendants to DEL VALLE, and, in exchange, DEL VALLE paid FIGUEROA tens of thousands of dollars in bribes.  DEL VALLE paid FIGUEROA directly and through FIGUEROA’s romantic partner, who would travel to DEL VALLE’s law office and pick up envelopes of cash for FIGUEROA.  Many of the clients who retained and paid DEL VALLE based on FIGUEROA’s referral were originally assigned free, court-appointed counsel.  Nevertheless, FIGUEROA encouraged those individuals to change counsel, including by vouching for DEL VALLE’s abilities as a lawyer.

In November 2022, federal law enforcement agents separately interviewed both FIGUEROA and DEL VALLE.  After agents advised each that lying to federal law enforcement agents is a crime, FIGUEROA and DEL VALLE each made materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements and representations in response to the agents’ questions.  In particular, FIGUEROA denied making any referrals to DEL VALLE, except on a small number of occasions concerning close relations or friends, and further denied ever having received payments from DEL VALLE for referrals.  DEL VALLE, upon being served with a federal grand jury subpoena requiring the production of records from his law firm, falsely denied having any records reflecting client referrals from, or payments to, FIGUEROA or anyone else.

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In addition to the prison sentence, FIGUEROA, 66, of New York, New York, was sentenced to one year of supervised release and was ordered to forfeit $40,000.  DEL VALLE, 65, of Leonia, New Jersey, was sentenced to one year of supervised release and was ordered to pay a fine of $10,000. 

Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of the Special Agents from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Frank Balsamello and Stephanie Simon are in charge of the prosecution.


Nicholas Biase, Lauren Scarff, Shelby Wratchford
(212) 637-2600

Updated April 8, 2024

Public Corruption
Press Release Number: 24-120