Posts Tagged ‘prison’

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.

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.

Maybe he just wasn’t professional enough

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

wsav.com reports on a man who pled guilty to smuggling contraband into prison. It would be of little interest except that he initially claim he was paid for paralegal work, not for contraband. It is likely that his claim was inherently suspect due to a lack of professionalism on his part. As even drug lords’ paralegals know, you have to be professional even when performing duties in prison for prisoners.

This is in no way to suggest any misconduct on the part of the drug lord’s paralegal, who did appear to be both a paralegal and professional. Rather it is another lament at the ease with which people call themselves paralegals and claim to be doing paralegal work. At least in this case the police might have been helped by the ABA, NFPA, NALA, AAfPE definition of paralegal which requires that services be performed with attorney supervision – simply ask the claimant to produce the attorney by whom he was being supervised.

Drug Lord’s Paralegal: “I have to be professional.”

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Denverpost.com reports on Lourdes Mederos, a paralegal working with incarcerated drug cartel kingpins in ADX Florence prison:

Lulu, 28, is bilingual, street smart and gorgeous. She moved to Florence from her native Miami last year for proximity to the incarcerated cartel leaders able to pay for her attention…

ADX Florence houses convicts the feds have deemed in need of the tightest control. It isolates them in solitary confinement. Visits are allowed only with family members — most of whom live nowhere near Colorado — or people designated as part of their legal teams.

Upon Lulu’s arrival in Florence, word spread among Latino drug lords in the prison that her one-woman LM Paralegal Inc. was available for hire

Each week, usually twice for Huerta and Matta Lopez, the inmates’ out-of-state lawyers pay Lulu $125 an hour to visit their clients, generally for most of the workday. She delivers legal documents and conveys messages about the many lawsuits each has filed against the federal Bureau of Prisons. Their complaints range from the tightness of their shackles to guards’ inability to speak Spanish to long waiting lists for vision care or hernia surgery. The cases are distractions from lives led in mind-numbing isolation.

Lulu offers company and conversation, the ultimate luxury in a prison where, she says, “you could die and nobody would know.”

Lulu makes a point of visiting on holidays. She’s careful never to be late. And she abides by ADX’s rules prohibiting her from showing cleavage or wearing skirts that fall above the knee. After all, she says, “I have to be professional.”

“These aren’t my boyfriends. I can’t be flirting or anything like that. They videotape our visits. There are a lot of eyes on me when I’m at my job,” she says.

Still, she’s confident her clients like the way she works. If they didn’t, “they would have cut me off a long time ago.” [Emphasis added.]

“They’re bad boys and I love working with bad boys,” she adds. “My line of work, it’s recession-proof. They ain’t going anywhere. I’ve got my own place. I’m my own boss. I’m able to help my family out. I’m living, for me, the American dream.”

Despite the headline, it should be noted that Ms. Mederos is not the drug lords’ paralegal. She is hired by, and works for, out-of-state attorneys. I assume that those attorneys have obtained permission to practice in her state. Otherwise a number of issues arise regarding attorney supervision, e.g., does it count if the attorney superivising the paralegal is not licensed in the state where the paralegal is performing services, and does sending a paralegal to visit a client and deliver legal documents constitute practicing law in a state where the attorney is not licensed?

In any case, it is good to see the Ms. Mederos remains professional in performing her job.