Having been both a paralegal student and a paralegal instructor, there are unique work situations which are not covered in the standard paralegal studies curriculum. For example, this story was recently published in the Arizona Capitol Times about a paralegal, duct tape and $100,000.00 in dirty money (literally and figuratively).
Just days after 17-year-old Karen Ivette Garibaldi-Osequera was indicted on drug smuggling charges, a paralegal for her attorney went to the Fourth Avenue Jail to post her bond using $100,000 in cash wrapped in dirty cellophane and duct tape.
The prosecutor in the case said the wad of small bills meant for Garibaldi-Osequera’s bond “looked like it had been buried.”
The suspicious bond payment was rejected and failed to free the teenage daughter of a suspected Mexican drug lord. It also brought a legal challenge that in late February secured the right of Arizona’s judges to hold so-called Nebbia hearings to determine whether the source of the bond is legitimate.
The paralegal worked for Phoenix, Arizona attorney Glenn Allen, who no longer represents Ms. Garibaldi-Osequera. Mr. Allen, while declining to comment for the news article, according to the prosecutor’s office is denying knowledge or authorization of the transaction. Ouch. So where does that leave the anonymous delivery person?
This article raises more questions than it answers about the paralegal’s role in this matter. Delivering $100,000.00 in dirty, small bills to a bond service is not a typical task in the life of a paralegal. It couldn’t have been a small, innocent-looking package. (If I’m wrong and this is a typical task for you, could you please post a comment?)
How did the paralegal obtain the cash? Was the package dropped off at the law firm, and did the paralegal deliver it because someone (not necessarily Mr. Allen) instructed her to do so? Did the paralegal unwisely show some unwanted initiative by delivering it without instructions to do so? Or, worst case scenario, did the paralegal take on a moonlighting job for someone on behalf of teenage defendant, without the knowledge of her employer?
The prosecutor’s office is taking a dim view of the cash delivery (and of the paralegal’s intelligence in a best case scenario). “It could have been made perfectly innocently — to the extent you can carry around $100,000 in duct tape,” said Assistant Attorney General Michael O’Toole. “The paralegal could have been completely clueless if you give the benefit of the doubt. It’s a very large benefit.”
The article raises interesting ethics question as well. If a client delivers obviously suspicious bond payments to a law firm, what are the attorneys’ ethical obligations? What is a paralegal supposed to do if told to deliver a large package of money that obviously looks like it was buried?