March 24, 2007
Indictment Alleges NOLA Attorney Stole Tens of Millions From Clients and Firm
Posted by Alan Childress
The ABA Journal has this Friday e-Report on federal charges filed against New Orleans attorney James Perdigao, alleging billing bilking of clients and also diversion of legitimate client payments from the firm Adams & Reese. The scheme sounds like one out of the ending to the movie version of The Firm, minus the mob but including client overbilling and the charge of mail fraud. (Ed Harris: "Mail fraud?!! Tom Cruise: "Studied it for the bar exam.") Perdigao actually is alleged to have diverted mail from a subsystem, which would sound like actual mail fraud to even non-lawyers.
Here, 59 various counts in all, but still his maximum sentence would be merely 1,023 years. That is not nearly enough, since obviously he may serve those quite quickly at his present billing rate (stealing the old joke with the lawyer facing St. Peter at Pearly Gates who must be as old as Methuselah according to timesheets). Need to make it 1,120 or more, I figure.
Like with all alleged embezzlers, suspicion started that one day he skipped work (a
temp sent a routine billing inquiry to accounting instead of him). First rule of embezzling:
there is no Fight Club No Days Off. Even his his heavy hourly billing was not enough to prevent that one day of absence to cover his tracks.
The law firm "reported Perdigao to the U.S. attorney’s office and the Louisiana State Bar Association’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel. In 2004, Perdigao was suspended from the practice of law on an interim basis." One legal ethics lawyer in Louisiana is quoted as saying, “He’s obviously in trouble now, and if any of this is true, I’m sure the state ethics system is watching him like a hawk.” Hmm. What would Mike Frisch say? Maybe they should do more than just watch him, like a hawk or any other sighted animal (though maybe they are, slowly, like a slow-seeing hawk).
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Publicity should have a wonderfully positive impact on attorney discipline, but lets see what happens here. Any disciplinary prosecutor will await the outcome of the criminal case, but some bars have emergency suspension powers that can be invoked where the attorney's ongoing practice is a threat to the public interest.
Posted by: Mike Frisch | Mar 24, 2007 9:13:31 AM
Thanks, Mike, that is what I wanted to know. AC
Posted by: Alan Childress | Mar 24, 2007 3:38:34 PM
I checked the Louisiana Bar Rules and confirmed that there is an interim suspension procedure.
Posted by: Mike Frisch | Mar 24, 2007 4:41:02 PM