"Paralegal pleads not guilty in fraud, theft"

I hate news like this about paralegals. Innocent until proven guilty, of course....:

"A Ware County paralegal was released on $20,000 bail Tuesday after pleading not guilty to federal charges of bank fraud and theft of government funds.

"Gina A. Wooten, 50, of Waycross, is accused of stealing more than $110,000 in a bank fraud scheme that an FBI investigation revealed involved forged signatures on federal bankruptcy checks.

"Wooten also is accused of stealing more than $1,000 from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The money was in the form of official checks from the bankruptcy trustee, a March 8 federal indictment showed.

"In an initial appearance, U.S. Magistrate James Graham arraigned Wooten and set the conditions of her bail, which include restricting her travel to southeast Georgia except for medical appointments in Jacksonville, Fla."


Firm Discovers 'Associate' Is Not a Lawyer

Despite many "red flags," it took Anderson Kill & Olick almost three years to find out this 'associate' was a paralegal!

"While Brian T. Valery 's legal education is in question, he could likely graduate with honors from the Frank Abagnale Jr. school of deceit.

"Valery is under fire for his pro hac vice appearance in a 2005 complex litigation case heard in Stamford, Conn. His motion to appear, which went unopposed, was based on his affidavit stating he was an attorney in good standing at the New York City firm of Anderson Kill & Olick. He also claimed to be a member of the New York Bar with no history of discipline.

"As it turns out, Valery not only isn't a member of the Bar, there's no record that he ever applied or sat for the bar exam in New York or even set foot in a Fordham Law School classroom, which he told Anderson Kill partners he was doing at night to advance his career beyond that of a paralegal, Connecticut grievance officials say.

"Abagnale, a notorious con artist on whom the 2002 movie 'Catch Me If You Can' is based, was convicted of passing bad checks worth millions of dollars while working in the Louisiana attorney general's office. He got that job thanks in part to a forged Harvard Law School transcript.

"In an apparently similar display of dupery, Valery, after working at Anderson Kill since 1996, told the firm in 2004 he had passed the New York Bar. Partners at the 132-lawyer firm have conceded to Connecticut grievance authorities that they regrettably took Valery at his word."

I think Anderson Kill would be wise to update its Vault [PDF] listing, particularly those comments from associates about why they like this firm. It has "since modified our procedures for doing...admissions checks to prevent this from happening again."

UPDATE: Note a somewhat different take on this story here: "Paralegal Dupes a Law Firm." Of course, the paralegal was quite wrong to claim lawyer credentials (& actually 'practice law'), but I thought law firms would have been smart enough to check.

What do you think?


Paralegals staff voting question 'hotlines'

Helping people vote legally & successfully is a good thing:

"South Carolina voters will have a lot of company at the polls on Election Day as several groups say they will watch for problems across the state.

[snip]

"The U.S. Justice Department will dispatch more than 800 observers nationwide, a record for a non-presidential election year, but will not make an announcement about where poll watchers will be located until Monday, agency spokeswoman Cynthia Magnuson said Friday.

"Meanwhile, several voter groups will document voting problems and a task force made up of U.S. attorneys and FBI agents will investigate any allegations of election fraud.

"The poll watchers will be looking for incidents like when several students, were turned away momentarily from a precinct at Benedict College in 2004 after poll watchers affiliated with the Republican Party contested the legality of their vote.

[snip]

"In addition to having volunteers at the polls, voters who encounter problems can call 866-OUR-VOTE as part of a national effort organized by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

"Callers to the hotline will reach a legal assistant trained in South Carolina election law. If the caller needs immediate legal attention, it will be routed to Columbia, where attorneys will be standing by."


Paralegal quoted on identity theft

Excellent news -- paralegal advice now being quoted by the press!

"A 90-year-old Manchester woman is out $10,000 cash after falling victim to a Canadian lottery scam.

"Another area woman selling a motorcycle on eBay was lured into wiring $2,000 to British Columbia as part of a phony transaction.

"New Hampshire Assistant Attorney General Richard Head recently got a fraudulent e-mail claiming to be from Paypal, but was really sent from an identity thief.

“'It’s a crime that’s affecting everybody,' said Michael Blanchard, a U.S. postal inspector who investigates identity theft crimes in New Hampshire. 'If you’re on the Internet, you’re affected by this.'

"Blanchard joined representatives from the New Hampshire office of the Attorney General and the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of New Hampshire & Vermont on Tuesday to talk to a dozen small business owners about how to protect their business and customers from scams mail.

[snip]

"But foreign lotteries are illegal in the United States, so there is no such thing as winning an Internet lottery, said Denise Costello, a paralegal with the attorney general’s office.

"So if you’ve won something, you shouldn’t have to pay anything, she added."