The Blog Formerly Known As Practical Paralegalism
Or, Don’t Try This at Home
When I started a blog to celebrate paralegals and share the occasional cautionary tale for its educational value, I honestly thought there’d be, like, six cautionary tales a year.
To be frank, I’m very disappointed that there were so many contenders for the 2009 Hall of Shame, and that I couldn’t easily cull it to a “Top 10”.
With some genuine sympathy for these folks’ mamas, here are Practical Paralegalism’s Top 20 cautionary tales:
- Mario Abernathy, a California paralegal, was sentenced to two years in prison for allegedly buying an elderly lawyer’s practice for a miserly $20.
- Leo G. Alvarado, a Texas paralegal, pleaded guilty to submitting more than $430,000 in false travel claims to his former employer, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid.
- Patricia Beddeley-Meehan, a former Connecticut real estate paralegal, pleaded guilty to stealing $1.7 million dollars from her former employer – and then while free on bond and working at a high end clothing store, was charged with stealing over $30,000 of clothes from the store.
- Peter J. Brandel, Sr., an Ohio paralegal, pleaded guilty to conspiring with a convicted child molester to subject one of his victims to a fraudulent federal lawsuit.
- Robert Brown, Jr., a North Carolina lawyer, was suspended for five years due to his admission of misconduct regarding the sexual harassment of his staff. This case may have resulted in a new catch-phrase for sexual harassment, “The Full Bob”.
- Samir Chowhan, a Chicago attorney, admitted to posting a Craigslist ad for a legal assistant/secretary expected to do a whole lot more than word-process and schedule depositions.
- Frank Crawford, a Tennessee legal assistant employed by TennCare, was charged with alleged multiple sexual offenses, some of which he admitted occurred while chatting with an undercover agent – during work hours and using a state-owned computer.
- Kristen Collins, a Florida paralegal, and her former employer, ex-attorney Jessica Miller, were charged with multiple felonies involving the alleged theft of client funds spent on shopping sprees and resort vacations.
- Kathy Foer-Morse, a former estate paralegal, was charged in New York with allegedly stealing over $285,000 from one law firm. She then managed to get re-hired in Philadelphia and was subsequently charged with allegedly stealing over $100,000 from that firm – which was discovered after she was terminated for tardiness.
- Major Ed Hudak, employed by the Coral Gables Police Department in Miami, Florida, publicly blamed his paralegal for an inaccurate affidavit he signed.
- Misty Iverson, a Minnesota legal assistant, and her former employer, attorney Al Garcia, were charged with allegedly accepting methamphetamine as a partial payment from a client needing representation on his own drug charges. Iverson allegedly stuffed the payment down her pants for safe-keeping.
- Margherita Maura, a Massachusetts real estate paralegal, was charged in federal court with allegedly filing false tax returns, after failing to report over $500,000 in income that she generously paid herself from two law firms.
- Sandy Valles New, a former paralegal for the Federal Public Defender’s office in Texas, was sentenced to five years in prison for using her job to help gang members with illegal activities.
- Andrew Schirrmeister, a Texas attorney, blamed a paralegal for omitting information about prior sanctions on his application to practice law in Illinois.
- Dr. Paul Schrode, the Chief Medical Examiner of El Paso County, during questioning about qualifications he listed on his job application, allegedly told a defense attorney he had a paralegal degree. (Question: Why does a medical doctor even need a fake paralegal degree? Answer: To cover up that alleged fake law degree.)
- Rosette Sankner, a Connecticut paralegal, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for allegedly embezzling almost $170,000 from her former employer, some of which was used to buy liquor, Godiva chocolates and a Las Vegas vacation.
- Bonnie Sweeten, a Philadelphia paralegal, made national news headlines after claiming that she and her daughter were carjacked. (They were safe and sound at Disney World.) She was then charged with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from her former employer and a children’s charity organization.
- Catherine Weaver, an Illinois paralegal, was sued by a title company for allegedly using her employer’s escrow account to steal in excess of one million dollars.
- Jody Wills, a Kentucky paralegal, pleaded guilty to stealing $400,000 from her former employer over a four-year period and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
- Romina Zadorian, a California resident, was accused of misrepresenting herself as a lawyer, paralegal or immigration officer – in order to defraud clients of over a half million dollars in fees for immigration services that were never delivered.
You may have expected to see Kathy Henry’s name on this list. She’s the now infamous Pepsi legal secretary blamed for a $1.26 billion judgment against the company (since set aside). But I still think Henry got thrown under a bus by Pepsi – and that many Pepsi agents and employees other than Henry contributed to the missed deadline.