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.
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