Monday, March 13, 2017

Disbarred Lawyer Impersonates "Client" And Goes To Prison For Identity Theft

Sometimes a disbarred attorney recognizes the errors that led to the imposition of the ultimate sanction. 

In most jurisdictions, reinstatement may be granted where the petitioning attorney demonstrates reformation of character and/or competence such that a second chance at practice is deemed in the public interest.

Sometimes not.

In the "likely not" category is a former attorney who used her supposed law license to ratchet up the volume from disbarment to the penitentiary.

Last week the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed her conviction for a fraudulent scheme to steal the assets of her "client" through identity theft and impersonating the Internal Revenue Service.

Christal Millner suffered a severe stroke leaving her unable to walk, talk, or drive for the remainder of her life. Pamela Hiler, Millner’s cousin, took responsibility for Millner’s care. In March 2010, hospital staff advised Hiler to seek guardianship of Millner in order to make health care and other decisions on Millner’s behalf. Hiler, a counselor, reached out to [defendant] White for assistance. White and Hiler had attended the same church for many years and Hiler recalled that White was an attorney.

Unfortunately (to put it mildly) Ms. Hiler did not check readily available sources for the status of disciplinary proceedings against White. 

White had been suspended in the District of Columbia since 2009.

Almost immediately after Hiler retained White, White began a scheme to defraud Hiler and Millner. In April 2010, White impersonated Millner to apply for a duplicate license in Millner’s name at a Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (“MVA”) location. White used Millner’s birth certificate and forged Millner’s signature on the application. Because White did not look like the prior photographs of Millner in the MVA database, the MVA confiscated the license. Undeterred, White obtained a counterfeit university identification with White’s picture and Millner’s name.

In June 2010, White created a Maryland entity called Intel Realty Financial Services (“IRFS”). White opened a bank account for IRFS at Wachovia Bank, listing Millner as IRFS’s CEO, owner, and president. The registered address of the bank account was a P.O. Box that White had previously opened. Using the fake university identification and Millner’s vehicle registration, White then rented another P.O. Box in Millner’s name from UPS. White authorized Millner and IRFS to receive mail from the UPS box.

Shortly thereafter, Millner received the first of many tax deficiency notices. Because Millner was bedridden in a medical facility, Hiler routinely went to Millner’s condo to retrieve the mail. In June 2010, Hiler opened a letter addressed to Millner and Millner’s mother purportedly from the “IRS, Department of Treasury, Internal Revenue Service.” J.A. 1163. The letter referred to an “Offer Compromised Agreement” between Millner and the IRS and requested remittance of $158,500 to IRFS. J.A. 1165. It warned that the office would “file an immediate lien on any and all of” Millner’s assets unless the agency received “full and complete payment” by June 19, 2010. J.A. 1165. Hiler asked White, her attorney, to call the number on the notice to ascertain whether it was legitimate and to confirm that Millner actually owed the money. After assuring Hiler that she had looked into the matter and Millner did owe the money, White told Hiler to send the checks on Millner’s behalf. Hiler purchased cashier’s checks drawn on Millner’s account and sent them to IRFS. From June 2010 until early 2013, Millner continued to receive similar tax notices and Hiler continued to send IRFS money from Millner’s accounts. Even after Millner died in January 2011, the tax notices continued.

By the end of 2012, the IRFS payments had depleted Millner’s assets. Hiler then received a notice addressed to her stating that she, as Millner’s personal representative, was responsible for paying the taxes. In addition, Hiler received a voicemail from an unidentified caller purporting to be “an official collector for” the IRS and the “State of Maryland Department of Revenue.”1 J.A. 2354. The caller instructed Hiler or her attorney to contact the office that day and left a return number. When Hiler consulted White as to these notices, White confirmed that Hiler was responsible for paying the taxes and advised that she borrow money to do so. Having sent IRFS approximately $800,000 at this point, Hiler became suspicious. She consulted another attorney, Craig Ellis, who told Hiler that the notices were “absolutely crazy” because an estate representative generally is not liable for the debts of the estate. J.A. 1360. Ellis, now also suspicious, did a quick internet search of White. He found out that, unbeknown to Hiler, White had been disbarred in Washington, D.C. and Maryland since 2011 and was not currently licensed to practice law.

White was released on bond on the ensuing criminal charges but

On October 14, 2014, the government filed a motion seeking White’s pretrial detention, alleging that White violated the terms of her pretrial release by defrauding another victim and opening another bank account without prior approval. Accordingly, the court ordered White detained pending trial, which began in July 2015.

The court affirmed both the conviction and well-deserved sentence of 108 months. 

White had been prosecuted in two separate matters by District of Columbia Disciplinary {then-Bar) Counsel that resulted in public findings of misconduct and sanctions prior to this criminal fraud. 

She was suspended in November 2009 when the Board on Professional Responsibility recommended a suspension of six months with fitness for a Rule 1.11 revolving door violation.

From the D.C. Bar web page

The D.C. Court of Appeals disbarred White based on two matters that were consolidated. In the first matter, White accepted employment on behalf of a client in a matter on which White had been personally and substantially involved as an employee of the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights. Rules 1.11 and 8.4(d). In the second matter, White submitted fabricated evidence and false testimony in a matter before the Council of the District of Columbia, as well as presented false evidence and made misrepresentations that pervaded her defense in the disciplinary hearing. Rules 3.4(a), 3.4(b), 8.1(a), 8.4(b),

 The January 2011 opinion of the Court of Appeals imposing disbarment is linked here.

The conduct in question is indeed serious: the record reflects that respondent made false accusations to the Council of the District of Columbia, fabricated evidence to support those accusations, and falsely recounted events that never occurred. Moreover, respondent has not presented a substantive defense to these allegations. The two separate cases of misconduct in question here demonstrate that respondent “lacks the moral fitness to remain a member of the legal profession.” Id. at 1200-01. Therefore, disbarment is the proper sanction in this instance in order to protect the public and the courts, to maintain the integrity of the profession, and to serve as a deterrent.

Maryland imposed reciprocal disbarment in September 2011.

Texas followed suit in disbarring her in July 2015 under the name Lucille Parrish.  (Mike Frisch)

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2017/03/the-united-states-court-of-appeals-for-the-fourth-circuit-affirmed-the-conviction-of-a-disbarred-attorney-for-a-fraudulent-sc.html

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