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Paralegal Busted for Claiming $430,000 in Fake Travel Expenses

Paralegal Busted for Claiming $430,000 in Fake Travel Expenses

As a blogger, it’s not my mission to rat out every paralegal who makes a mistake, but this story from the San Antonio Express News is notable for the sheer audacity of the alleged misdeeds. In this case, the since fired paralegal copped to submitting more than $430,000.00 in fake travel claims.

Leo G. Alvarado, an ex-lawyer who worked as a paralegal for Texas RioGrande Legal Aid for approximately 14 years, “pleaded guilty to four felony counts of mail fraud for submitting false claims for mileage and per-diem reimbursement.”

He claimed he had visited several of the organization’s clients to help them fill out their Veterans Affairs Department claims. In reality, the people he claimed to have visited were dead, did not exist or were not even clients of the TRLA, previously known as the Texas Rural Legal Aid. It provides legal services to the poor.

It’s not unheard of for employees to pad travel reimbursement requests or misplace a few meal receipts, but almost half a million dollars in fraudulent mileage and per-diem claims is like winning the travel expense lottery.

Why didn’t this kind of money raise any red flags in TRLA’s bookkeeping department a long time ago? How much does it cost to visit the poor – in the same state?

Our eagle-eyed office manager and bookkeeper notices if we accidentally write 43 cents instead of 34 cents on a mileage reimbursement form.

4 Responses to Paralegal Busted for Claiming $430,000 in Fake Travel Expenses

  1. If memory serves me right, it seems like a lot of these "busted" paralegals are ex- or disbarred attorneys, doesn't it?

  2. Well,it is Texas – about 780 miles across! Driving in a straight line from one side to the other takes 12 hours at 65 mph – without stops.

    To put this in perspective, starting in El Paso, TX and heading west, it is only 800 miles to Los Angeles, CA and the Pacific Ocean – if you'd headed east, you'd still (almost) be in Texas. Starting in Beaumont, TX and heading east, it is only 780 miles to Jacksonville, FL and the Atlantic Ocean – if you'd headed west, you'd still be in Texas. Starting in Stratford, TX and heading north, 800 miles puts you in North Dakota – if you headed south – well, you know.

    So yeah, you could rack up a lot of travel expenses without leaving the state!

  3. Umm…I would think that "perspective" would include either billing only what your firm or tax law allows you to bill for mileage (if memory serves I think that is around 50-something cents per mile for tax purposes). Just sayin'…. Hey I wonder if I can toss my mail in the shred and just ask the client for $430k for "handling" their objections?

Contact Info:

Lynne J. DeVenny, N.C. State Bar Certified Paralegal

Owner & Virtual Paralegal, DeVenny Paralegal Services

Email: lynne.devenny[at]gmail.com

Telephone: 336-582-0003

Inquiries are welcome, with free quotes available.

Meet Lynne:

Lynne DeVenny is a North Carolina State Bar Certified Paralegal with over 27 years of experience working on complex litigation cases, including medical malpractice, personal injury, workers’ compensation, and Social Security disability.

Disclosure: I am not a lawyer and cannot provide legal representation or legal advice.

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