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Press Release

Southern District Of New York Court Employee And Practicing Attorney Charged With Bribery And Making False Statements

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York
Courthouse Employee Referred Clients to Criminal Defense Lawyer in Exchange for Illegal Compensation, and Both Defendants Lied to Federal Agents

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today the unsealing of charges against DIONISIO FIGUEROA, a/k/a “Dionicio,” an employee of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (“the SDNY District Court”), and TELESFORO DEL VALLE, JR., a/k/a “Ted,” a criminal defense attorney practicing in the SDNY District Court and elsewhere, for their participation in a scheme in which FIGUEROA referred criminal defendants to DEL VALLE and encouraged those defendants to retain DEL VALLE as counsel in exchange for cash payments from DEL VALLE to FIGUEROA.  FIGUEROA was arrested, and DEL VALLE surrendered earlier today, and both will be presented before United States Magistrate Judge Andrew E. Krause in the SDNY District courthouse in White Plains, New York.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “The public, the Court, and the bar all rely on the integrity and honesty of the professionals who work for the Court and the lawyers who appear there.  For years, Figueroa and Del Valle allegedly violated their duties and undermined the fair administration of justice, all for their personal gain.  This Office will do its part to uphold the high standards of conduct expected of all those who play a role in the criminal justice process.”

According to the allegations in the Indictment:[1]

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 SDNY District Court; and recommending particular attorneys to members of the public.  FIGUEROA also was subject to the United States 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, among other things, 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 is a private attorney who has 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 District Court 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 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 DEL VALLE paid FIGUEROA tens of thousands of dollars in referral fees.  DEL VALLE paid FIGUEROA directly and through an intermediary, who would pick up envelopes of cash for FIGUEROA from DEL VALLE’s law office. 

Many of the clients who ended up retaining and paying DEL VALLE were assigned free, court-appointed counsel.  Nevertheless, FIGUEROA encouraged those individuals to change counsel, including by vouching for DEL VALLE’s abilities as a lawyer.  For example, in July 2018, FIGUEROA told family members of one defendant (“Defendant-1”), in substance, that FIGUEROA knew a good attorney who was a specialist in similar cases and could get
Defendant-1 out of trouble.  He then provided FIGUEROA’s contact information to
Defendant-1’s relative.  Similarly, in February 2020, FIGUEROA told a family member of another defendant (“Defendant-2”), in substance, that if anyone could help Defendant-2 in Defendant-2’s case, it was DEL VALLE.  At the time, Defendant-2 was represented by court-appointed counsel.

FIGUEROA and DEL VALLE are also charged with making false statements to law enforcement during the investigation.  In November 2022, federal law enforcement agents separately interviewed both FIGUEROA and DEL VALLE.  After advising each that lying to federal law enforcement agents is a federal 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.  As to DEL VALLE, upon being served with a federal grand jury subpoena requiring the production of records from his law firm, DEL VALLE denied having any records reflecting client referrals from, or payments to, FIGUEROA or anyone else.

*                *                *

FIGUEROA, 66, of New York, New York, and DEL VALLE, 65, of Leonia, New Jersey, are each charged with one count of conspiracy to bribe a federal employee and pay illegal compensation to a judicial employee, which carries a maximum potential sentence of five years in prison; one count of bribery of a federal employee, which carries a maximum potential sentence of 15 years in prison; one count of illegal compensation to a judicial employee, which carries a maximum potential sentence of five years in prison; and one count of false statements, which carries a maximum potential sentence of five years in prison.

The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by a judge.

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, Andrew Rohrbach, and Jarrod L. Schaeffer are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Indictment and the descriptions of the Indictment set forth below constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.


Nicholas Biase
(212) 637-2600

Updated March 30, 2023

Public Corruption
Press Release Number: 23-119