Archive for the ‘Paralegal crimes’ Category

An Important and Well-written Rallying Cry

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

Jamie Collins wrote “A Rallying Cry Against Rogue Paralegals” posted on The Paralegal Society webpage. Here’s her motivation quoted from the article:
For starters, I believe 99% of paralegals are ethical people, who do their jobs with integrity, and do it well. …

Aside from the aforementioned 99%, the remaining (incredibly loosely estimated) 1% of paralegals, it seems, may consist of some shifty folks who tend to straddle the ethical lines. I write this post today as a rallying cry to ALL paralegals across the United States. I’m talking to every paralegal reading this post who gives a damn about the profession and our reputation as “paralegals.”

It is, as I say in the title of this post, both important for the paralegal profession and well-written. Please take the time to read it.

Tale of Two Former Paralegals

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

For the last couple of days, my news feed has featured two artifices with “former paralegal” in the headline. The first say, “A former paralegal welcomes children into Heaven’s House.” The second is entitled, “Former paralegal who stole nearly $600,000 get 20 years in prison.” The point here is none too subtle. I’d prefer that most paralegals become “former” only by retiring after a long career of being a fantastic paralegal. But, in the end, everyone – regardless of their chosen career – has to decide what kind of person they want to be. Fortunately, by far most of current paralegals are more like the first former paralegal than the second former paralegal. The best that can be said of the second is that she is a former paralegal. Perhaps a good way to decide on a day-to-day basis what we should do and how we should do it, is to ask ourselves whether we want to be remembered as the first former paralegal is remembered or the second.

The Supervising Attorney as Brother’s Keeper

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Yes, it’s been a while, but No I’ve not been back in the hospital. Thanks to all those who asked. I’ve been traveling to conferences and back to Maine and, thus, getting further and further behind in my regular work, so I’ve not been blogging in order to catch up. I’m just now getting to reading email and postings on other blogs from the last few weeks.

One topic that caught my eye was a pair of posts regarding misconduct by legal professionals. Normally when I spot a story regarding embezzlement by a paralegal I go on a bit of rant about the failure of the supervising attorney to supervise the paralegal. After all, the paralegals are not supposed to work independently. I felt somewhat vindicated in this position when I read the ABA Journal post on an attorney who was reprimanded for failing to supervise his own brother, even though he reported his brother’s embezzlement:

Peter J. Galasso, a New York lawyer, should have been his brother’s keeper, the New York Court of Appeals found Tuesday.

Anthony Galasso was the office manager at the firm that was then known as Galasso & Langione, and Peter Galasso told authorities that his brother embezzled millions of dollars from client funds, Newsday reports. Nevertheless, the state’s high court found that Peter Galasso did not properly supervise the work of his brother, who spent the money on Barbra Streisand tickets and a Mercedes-Benz, among other things.

So naturally I was ready to go on another tear when I saw this headline: “Paralegal pleads guilty to embezzling $311,000 from elderly client,” especially since it involved financial abuse an elder client – another area that easily rankles me (See Elder Clients and Elder Law category.)

But this one is a bit problematical. The paralegal was working at a law firm, but “Blood, 56, a paralegal at Hiscock & Barclay’s Buffalo offices … took on the task for the widow as a side job,” and began writing out checks from the widow’s accounts to herself. It’s not clear how this “side-job” came about. Certainly if the 77 year-old widow was a client of the firm and the side-job was known to the firm, a case could be made that there is still an obligation on the part of the firm to make sure its employee was not ripping off the client, but it is not a clear-cut case. The firm , “told The Buffalo News that the thefts from the heiress “occurred outside her employment” at the law firm. They also said she is “no longer employed by the firm.”

In the end, I have to agree with the widow: Trust, but verify,’ ” she said. She urged people who entrust others to keep track of their finances, even if they’re family members, to keep tabs on what’s going on. “Look at me,” she said. “I’m not a stupid bunny.” However, many elderly are not able to verify and do not have trusted family members to do it for them. So one can’t help but wonder whether the firm should have done more verifying in this case. I like to hear from anyone who knows more about the facts of this case and, of course, from any one who has a reasoned opinion on the issues it raises.

Paralegal Supervisor Saga Ends

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Imagining a new job is a wonderful pastime, if you’ve time to pass. But creating imaginary jobs can land you in jail. posts here. Those posts generally dealt with the problem of determining what it took to be “certified” as either a paralegal or paralegal supervisor in that parish. Those adventures appear to have come to an end with a guilty plea by Aaron Broussard to federal corruption charges. Unfortunately, it appears it will end without an answer to the certification questions unless someone is willing to stop by the parish offices, read the “Jefferson Parish Executive Pay Plan” and other documents, and report back to us.

According to WWLTV, Broussard met with other officials to “Karen Parker, a woman Broussard would marry eventually, a job.” Normally that in itself would not constitute corruption, but this is:

“Broussard specifically wanted to have other Parish officials, including Wilkinson, be the individuals who hired Parker, because he knew that once he took over the position of Parish President, he could not hire Parker, and there would be increased scrutiny as a result of their romantic relationship,” says the factual basis.

During the meeting, all three men agreed to get Parker a job as a paralegal supervisor at the parish attorney’s office. It was also understood by the men that the position created just for Parker would be unnecessary.

OK, so they create an unnecessary position and hire Parker for it. But I’m still  confused. Did they also change the Executive Pay Plan to include the position or was there already such a position in the pay plan? If it was already in the pay plan, what was the job description for the position? Was it for a paralegal who  could also supervise other standard employees ( a Paralegal/Supervisor) or a person that could supervise paralegals? If they created the position and put into the Pay Plan, why was “Her starting salary was $48,000 – “higher than the salary range allowed for the position of Paralegal Supervisor under the Executive Pay Plan for Jefferson Parish?”

Finally, while everyone now agrees “Parker, despite holding position she was unqualified for, was trying to collect overtime/comp pay claiming that she working from home – a violation of parish rules,” we still are no further along in our quest to find out what those qualifications were and what it means to be “certified” as having those qualifications.

 

More Paralegal Crimes

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

After a little span marked by the absence of paralegal crimes on my news feed, I find two such stories today.

There is an inherent conflict in the role of paralegals. On the one hand they are expected to be reliable, responsible, self-starting individuals able to work independently of hands-on direct monitoring. On the other, they are supposed to work under the supervision of an attorney. The extent of the necessary supervision is open to discussion and has been discussed here several times. However, without offensive to the thousands of honest paralegals, that supervision really ought to include regularly double-checking and auditing of accounts under the charge of the paralegals as this story indicates:

Ex-Pima County paralegal pleads guilty in fraud case

Kim Smith, Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star | Posted: Monday, April 2, 2012 12:02 pm

A former paralegal with the Pima County Attorney’s Office pleaded guilty to two counts of forgery with intent to defraud Monday in Pima County Superior Court.

Brenda Pinckney could be placed on probation by Judge Michael Miller next month or she could receive a prison term of between 1 1/2 and 7 1/2 years.

Pinckney, who worked for 12 years at the Pima County Attorney’s Office, was indicted Jan. 5 on charges alleging she stole more than $4,000 from the office – money intended to reimburse crime victims and witnesses for travel to Pima County Superior Court and per diem costs.

She faced 19 felony charges including fraud, theft, forgery and aggravated taking the identity of another person.

As part of her job, Pinckney, 36, was responsible for obtaining funds from petty cash and giving them to the witnesses.

Pinckney was accused of submitting reimbursement requests for nonexistent addresses and for court events that didn’t happen, according to a letter notifying Pinckney of her impending termination. She was also accused of not returning the required receipts or forging the signatures of victims and witnesses on the receipts she did return.

Some of the receipts were for travel from as far as San Jose, Calif.; Hermosillo, Sonora; and Page.

On Monday, Pinckney admitted submitting false reimbursement forms for travel to and from Yuma and Flagstaff for more than $442.

The key here is probably the fact that she worked in the office for 12 years and played off the trust she had built up over those years.

The next story is not so easy to fathom. First there is no indication as to why the alleged prepetrator is being labelled a “paralegal” and there is little indication as to what the “paralegal’s” role was in the scheme. But we have seen the phenomenon before. In all likelihood there is a split in this cases. In some the paralegal is a knowing, willing, and perhaps avid participant because of their inherent character. But I also suspect there are a fair number of paralegals who start out honest, but become involved in schemes hatched by attorneys or other persons in power over the paralegal out of fear of saying “No,” desire to please, or lack of understanding of the import of what they are being asked to do. In any case, here’s the second story of an alleged paralegal crime.

Massachusetts Paralegal Charged in Property Mortgage Scam

 

(Source: IRS) – MARCH 30, 2012 – BOSTON – A paralegal was charged late yesterday in connection with a multi-year, multi-property mortgage fraud scheme.  Rebecca L. Konsevick, 40, of Roslindale, was charged by Information with bank fraud and money laundering.

The Information alleges that from 2006 through 2008, Konsevick committed fraud in connection with condominium sales in Massachusetts. It is alleged that a developer identified multiple-family buildings for sale, recruited straw buyers to purchase the buildings and that the developer and others then recruited straw buyers to purchase individual units in buildings that the developer controlled.

According to the Information, the straw buyers’ financing for the purchases was obtained by falsely representing key information to lenders. The developer and others allegedly caused loan applications containing false representations regarding the buyers’ income, employment, assets, and/or intention to reside in the condominiums to be submitted to mortgage lenders. In addition, Konsevick and the developer caused HUD-1 settlement statements to be submitted to the same lenders, falsely representing that straw buyers had paid funds in connection with the property transactions, and falsely representing how the proceeds of the mortgage loans were disbursed. It is further alleged that Konsevick falsely signed certifications on these HUD-1 settlement statements and closed the relevant property deals.

If convicted on the bank fraud counts, Konsevick faces up to 30 years in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release and a $1 million fine. If convicted of money laundering, Konsevick faces up to 10 years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.

Attorney and paralegal sentenced for fraud

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

I’m off to Duluth, GA, for the weekend tomorrow, so this article drew my attention because it involves both Duluth and a paralegal. Unfortunately, it is another story of a paralegal that allowed himself to be drawn into a fraudulent scheme rather than refusing and reporting the involved attorney.

Parmesh Dixit, 41, of Alpharetta, was sentenced to prison recently by United States District Judge Julie Carnes on charges of conspiracy to harbor aliens in violation of the law.

Punyapriya Patel, 37, also of Alpharetta was also sentenced by Carnes for his role in the same conspiracy to harbor undocumented immigrants.

United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said, “Dixit, an immigration attorney, made over $1 million by submitting fraudulent applications for a specialized visa program for executives of foreign companies. Our immigration pathways are not for sale, and now Dixit is going to prison.”….

Dixit was sentenced to 2 years in prison to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. He was also ordered to perform 80 hours of community service and forfeit $1.2 million. Dixit pleaded guilty to the charges on May 6, 2011.

Patel, whom the court noted as contributing significant cooperation in the case, was sentenced to 3 years of probation, beginning with six months of home confinement.

He was also ordered to perform 80 hours of community service, and forfeit $100,000. Patel pleaded guilty to the charges on May 12, 2011.

According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: Lawful visa programs exist through which certain high-level managers in overseas companies can legally come to the United States to work. DIXIT conspired with PATEL, a paralegal in his law office, with Hitesh Desai, 47, of Duluth, Ga, owner of “Intelli Infotek,” a software development and consultant company previously located in Duluth, and with others, to assist immigrants seeking visas that would allow them to enter or remain in the United States and work here.

There is no information in the story on which we can question Patel’s “right” to call himself an paralegal. It is, of course, unfortunate that his conduct reflects so poorly on the paralegal profession when so many paralegals are striving to improve the profession’s image.

I am wondering though whether local and national paralegal associations might be able to prevent some of these instances of paralegal participation in crimes (see the “Paralegal Crimes” category) by providing education and formal, but confidential support to paralegals who are being asked to participate in questionable activities. It seems likely to me that some paralegals “drift” into complicity because they do not know what to do even when they know it would be best not to do. The logistics might prove problematic. For example, it may be necessary for the paralegals providing the support to work under the supervision of a volunteer attorney in order to provide true confidentiality. But professional paralegals are quite adept at working out solutions to such logistical problems.

Adequate Supervision and Embezzlement

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Yet another story in the news of a paralegal being charged with embezzling from her law firm. This story involves a south Florida paralegal who is actually a licensed attorney in another state, but was apparently working as a paralegal in Florida. Perhaps that is why she was able (if the allegations are true) to transfer “transferred $82,473.86 from the firm to pay off three credit cards accounts belonging to her husband in 2008 and 2009,” steal “over $56,000 from accounts belonging to Steven A. Schultz, a lawyer who leased space with the firm,” and transfer “$31,050 from Schultz’s credit card account to the law firm’s account, a move meant to cover up earlier thefts from her employer.”

{At the time, Schultz had been hospitalized at Jackson Memorial Hospital with a terminal illness and was not expected to survive. He did, however, survive and attended Tuesday’s court hearing, according to the report in the Miami Herald.

If the charges are true, there is no doubt as to whole is to blame for the embezzlement – the paralegal. But as I’ve noted before instances such as this raise questions as to whether the paralegal has received “adequate supervision” from her attorneys, something that is both required by the Rules of Professional Conduct and something to which all paralegals are entitled. While this person was a licensed attorney in another state, she was working as a paralegal and thus subject to the supervision requirement.

Thus while the blame for the embezzlement falls squarely on the embezzler, the firm must take some responsibility for supervision that allowed her to engage in this conduct for a period of two or three years.

Parsippany paralegal plea bargains – To prison for posing

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

I’ve previously noted several cases involving “paralegals” involved in crimes, I’ve avoid doing so of late, in part because there are so many of such stories in the papers. As I’ve written there are many issues surrounding these crimes – lack of attorney supervision, paralegals becoming part of a lawyer’s conspiracy (perhaps unwittingly at first) rather than reporting them, the effects such publicity has on the public’s perception of paralegals as a profession, the fact that the profession is often tarnished by people who are not really professional paralegals because just about anyone can call themselves paralegals, and the inability of the profession to “screen out” bad apples.  Today’s post focuses on the last of these issues because the first line of a report in the Daily Record is so striking in that regard:

A paralegal from Parsippany with a criminal history of thefts was offered a plea bargain Wednesday of 18 months in state prison to resolve a charge of posing as her daughter to get a credit card.

I do not know if this person was actually working as a paralegal at the time of the events leading to these charges, but she does have a history of working for lawyers as a paralegal because she has a history of stealing from those attorneys:

Yturbe was sent to prison in 2004 for stealing $35,900 from a Montville lawyer who employed her as his paralegal. She was released after serving nine months of a four-year sentence. She also has a previous conviction for stealing $3,220 in 2001 from an attorney in Morristown.

While these previous convictions (or at least the second given the amount) raise issues regarding attorney supervision, my question is why is it that “A paralegal from Parsippany with a criminal history of thefts,” i.e., how can it be that a person with this history is still allowed to be a paralegal? The answer, of course, is that anyone can be a paralegal. There is no “good character” requirement as there is for attorneys or for paralegals in parts of Canada. It is not likely that a lawyer with this history would have retained a license. At the very least, the Daily Record‘s story would say “a former attorney with a criminal history of thefts,” thus indicating to the public that the profession had recognized the individual as a bad apple and tossed him from the barrel. The paralegal profession does not have this capability and it continues to harm the profession.