Federal Prosecutors Seeking Biglaw Bills as Part of Probe

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that federal prosecutors have requested records to determine if there was a financial relationship between a former Atlanta city attorney and the private law firm that guided the city’s response to numerous federal grand jury subpoenas.

The firm, Paul Hastings LLP, has earned millions over the past decade handling some of the city’s most sensitive matters for both former Mayor Kasim Reed and his successor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, according to the AJC’s Stephen Deere.

The review focuses on whether there were payments from the firm to Cathy Hampton, the city’s former top lawyer.

Read the Journal-Constitution article.



‘Brilliant and Inspirational’ In-House Lawyer Killed in Sri Lanka Blasts

Anita Nicholson, in-house counsel at mining company Anglo American in Singapore, was killed along with her two children in an explosion at the Shangri La hotel in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, according to The Law Society Gazette.

Her husband Ben Nicholson, also a solicitor, survived the attack, one of at least seven terrorist attacks reported in churches and luxury hotels in the capital city of Colombo.

“Anita was a wonderful, perfect wife and a brilliant, loving and inspirational mother to our two wonderful children,” Ben Nicholson said in a statement.

The Law Society reported that Anita Jane Nicholson was admitted in 2000. Her LinkedIn profile states she was a regulatory and compliance managing counsel at Anglo American and previously held roles at BP and HM Treasury. She also had been a solicitor at international law firm DLA Piper in London.

Read the Gazette article.



Anatomy of a Prosecutorial Meltdown

A prosecutor in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, finds himself embroiled in a legal scorched earth conflict against his county commissioners — a fight that started when he used $21,000 in asset forfeiture funds to lease a car.

Above the Law traces the conflict between the commissioners and Lancaster District Attorney Craig Stedman.

Along the way, Stedman doubled down after commissioners said they would have leased him a vehicle through proper channels if he’d asked for one, but that using the forfeited funds to get a car on his own violated protocol, writes Above the Law senior editor Joe Patrice.

Stedman sued the commissioners, and they responded by blocking the use of county funds for the lawsuit. Stedman turned over documents, but the records didn’t include receipts documenting what specific seized items were sold and what items were bought with the proceeds.

Read the Above the Law article.



Alleged Phony Lawyer Arrested For Creating Fake Website With Cravath Bios

HandcuffsThe U.S. Department of Justice has reported that a Tennessee man was charged for allegedly creating a fake website for a six-lawyer New York City law firm, so he could dupe people into paying him for legal services.

John Lambert, 23, was charged with wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy. Lambert allegedly held himself out as a lawyer using a website that cut and pasted lawyer biographies from Cravath, Swaine & Moore, according to a report by the ABA Journal.

The criminal complaint says that Lambert and a co-conspirator, non-lawyers who allegedly created a fake law firm, collected more than $50,000 in payments through a PayPal account.

Read the ABA Journal article.




Former SeaWorld Associate GC Pleads Guilty to Insider Trading

SeaWorld Entertainment’s former associate general counsel, who was fired last October, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a federal charge of insider trading that allowed him to make nearly $65,000 from a stock sale last year, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

Paul B. Powers, 60, entered his plea before a U.S. district judge in Florida. Sentencing has not yet been determined, writes the Union-Tribune‘s Lori Weisberg.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said that it had also charged Powers with insider trading based on confidential information he received that SeaWorld’s revenue would be better than anticipated for the second quarter of 2018.

Read the Union-Tribune article.



Murder-for-Hire of North Texas Woman Featured on ‘In Ice Cold Blood’ TV Series

Fears Nachawati trial lawyer Matthew McCarley will be featured in an upcoming episode of the true crime show “In Ice Cold Blood,” detailing the murder-for-hire of a 69-year-old woman who was killed for her $5 million life insurance policies.

In 2014, Anita Fox was found fatally stabbed inside a Colleyville house where she worked as a housekeeper, according to a recent post by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing. Bernard “Little Joe” Gorman and his father, Bernard “Big Joe” Gorman, were arrested for the murder, with the police investigation uncovering a complex insurance fraud scheme involving Ms. Fox’s daughter and son-in-law, Virginia and Mark Buckland.

The investigation revealed that over the course of several years, the Bucklands had taken out a series of life insurance policies on Fox, naming themselves as sole beneficiaries. Following the recommendation of an insurance agent, the couple brought in the Gormans, members of a nomadic ethnic clan known as Irish Travellers, as third-party investors. Looking for immediate returns, the pair allegedly stalked and murdered Fox, who has been identified as a member of the English Travellers, another nomadic ethnic group, according to the Androvett post.

Represented by McCarley and Brice Burris of Fears Nachawati, Fox’s son and estate executor, Al Fox III, filed suit to prevent the Bucklands from profiting from the insurance policies. Though the couple has never been charged criminally in the murder, a jury in the 2018 civil case found that they were instrumental in crafting the insurance scheme that led to Fox’s death. Jurors awarded her son $166 million.

“Five years after her death, the scheme is still shocking in its sheer audacity,” said McCarley. “They have not faced criminal charges for their role in the murder, but the one thing that Mr. Fox can take comfort in is knowing that his sister and brother-in-law will never profit financially from his mother’s death.”

Hosted by actor and rapper Ice-T, “In Ice Cold Blood” is broadcast on the Oxygen Network. The episode “Gypsy Grandma” will premiere at 7 p.m. CDT April 8.



Ex-NFL Player’s Tax Lawyer Gets 3 Years for False Returns

Bloomberg Law is reporting that a Northern California tax attorney was sentenced April 1 to three years in federal prison for stealing $1.2 million in refunds fraudulently obtained on behalf of his NFL player client.

Hiram M. Martin was charged with falsifying returns for Antrel Rolle, a former Pro Bowl NFL safety who played for the Arizona Cardinals, New York Giants, and Chicago Bears. Martin reportedly filed tax documents in Rolle’s name without his permission, and forged his client’s signature, writes Bloomberg’s David McAfee.

Prosecutors said Martin also worked to keep the IRS from contacting Rolle and to keep Rolle from contacting the IRS when a news story ran about the athlete’s tax liabilities.

Read the Bloomberg Law article.



Illinois Prosecutor Killed in Wisconsin, Sought Protection Against Ex-Husband

Stacia Hollinshead, a 30-year-old assistant state’s attorney from DeKalb County, Ill., was murdered in Wisconsin, and her ex-husband has been arrested.

The Daily Chronicle of DeKalb, Ill., reports that Hollinshead, who is a mother of one and a graduate of Northern Illinois University’s Law School, was pronounced dead at the scene, in her parents’ house in Wisconsin.

Police arrested her ex-husband, Ulisses Medina Espinoza, in connection with the murder. Hollinshead had sought a protective court order to keep Medina Espinosa away from her, citing a pattern of verbal and digital harassment.

The report quotes Mark Cordes, interim dean and professor of law at NIU’s College of Law: “Stacia had tremendous potential as a lawyer and a very bright future ahead of herself. She was the type of graduate that makes our school very proud.”

Read the Daily Chronicle article.




Attorney Loses Appeal of Contempt Finding for Not Taking Stand

Bloomberg Law is reporting that a Washington, D.C., attorney is in criminal contempt of court for refusing to answer questions about where his client’s assets could be found, the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed March 26.

The court found that Matthew LeFande disregarded oral and written orders to answer questions on the witness stand by the magistrate judge in the underlying case. That underlying litigation began when LeFande’s client sold a property through a real estate settlement company, and the company mistakenly transferred almost $300,000 back to her instead of to her mortgage lender.

At a status conference, the magistrate judge ordered LeFande to answer questions, but he refused, asserting attorney-client and Fifth Amendment privileges, writes Bloomberg’s Martina Barash.

Read the Bloomberg Law article.



Former Prosecutor: Mueller’s Hedging on Obstruction ‘Somewhat Surprising’

The Russian election interference report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, still not fully disclosed, is raising a number of questions and also surprised some who practice criminal law, according to a report by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing.

“It is perhaps somewhat surprising that Mr. Mueller didn’t provide a conclusion on the issue of obstruction of justice. Certainly, many Americans were expecting a clear-cut decision,” said Philip Hilder, a former U.S. prosecutor in Houston who now is a white-collar criminal defense lawyer at Hilder & Associates, P.C.

“But proving either conspiracy or obstruction is a difficult challenge. Until the portion of the actual Mueller report is disclosed articulating his rationale, I could only speculate as to why there is no solid conclusion after a two-year investigation.

“Perhaps more surprising is that Attorney General William Barr concluded after only 48 hours of review that the investigation is not sufficient to establish that the president obstructed justice. Assuming the bulk of the report itself is released, a fuller picture will come into focus as to why Mueller demurred and whether Mr. Barr’s conclusion is justified,” said Hilder who has represented whistleblowers and other defendants in high-profile trials.

“As to how much of the report and grand jury testimony should be turned over to Congress, it is reasonable to assume that a large portion is based on grand jury material. A court order is needed to release that information. A blanket release requested by Congress may not be possible, since there may be evidence disclosed that is related to ongoing investigations by other federal prosecutors as well criminal prosecutions already indicted by the Mueller team. Nonetheless, it may take a while until all the grand jury material is scrutinized before its possible release. I would anticipate rolling production, with Congress receiving parts of the report over time.”



First NBC Bank’s Former Top Lawyer Charged With Defrauding New Orleans Bank

First NBC Bank’s former top lawyer was charged in federal court Friday with conspiracy to defraud the New Orleans bank, which failed two years ago in the biggest U.S. bank collapse since the 2008 financial crisis, reports The News Orleans Advocate.

Gregory St. Angelo was First NBC’s general counsel for a decade until 2016. During that time, according to the Advocate‘s Anthony McAuley, he took out loans totaling tens of millions of dollars from the bank, many of which went into default.

“St. Angelo was charged in a bill of information rather than a grand jury indictment, generally a sign that a defendant has agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with prosecutors. He is due for a first appearance in federal court March 29,” writes McAuley.

Read the Advocate article.



Parents Charged in College Scandal Are Turning to This Convicted Felon for Advice on Life in Prison

Justin Paperny, a a former Bear Stearns stockbroker who spent 18 months in federal prison for conspiring to commit fraud, has become a go-to resource for wealthy criminals preparing for prison, according to a report in The Washington Post.

He and his eight-person firm, White Collar Advice, have already been hired by one person tied to the college admissions scandal. Post reporter Peter Holley writes that Paperny provided an invoice showing a down payment of several thousand dollars. And multiple people charged in the scandal have reached out to him for advice, he said, and he suspects he may be hired by several of them.

“Paperny said his fee — which could reach tens of thousands of dollars for his latest client — is high, in part, because he’s one of the few people who can speak to upper-crust criminals in a language they understand,” writes Holley.

Read the Post article.



High-Profile Defendants in College Scandal Hiring Biglaw Heavy-Hitters

Defendants in the college admissions cheating scandal case have been turning to Biglaw firms for representation, including Cooley, Sidley Austin, Latham & Watkins, Boies Schiller Flexner, and Ropes & Gray.

Bloomberg Law reports that two of the latest hires are Cooley partners Randall R. Lee and William Schwartz, who have been hired by Jane Buckingham, the founder and chief executive of Trendera, a youth marketing consultancy. Prosecutors allege she paid $50,000 for someone to take the ACT college entrance exam in her son’s place.

And Jack W. Pirozzolo, a partner in Sidley Austin’s Boston office, is representing William McGlashan Jr., who worked at private equity firm TPG before being fired in the wake of the scandal.

Read the Bloomberg article.



Hackers Shut Down Boston Legal System for Weeks, Seeking Payment in Bitcoin

A cyberattack on the agency overseeing Boston public defenders has caused a weekslong slowdown, disabling e-mail systems, delaying some hearings, and hanging up payments for the private attorneys who represent clients, reports The Boston Globe.

“The Committee for Public Counsel Services has been cleaning up for two weeks after a ransomware attack locked up its servers, with the culprits demanding that a ransom be paid in bitcoin,” writes the Globe‘s Andy Rosen. “The agency refused to pay, because it has backup files it can use to restore the system.”

A similar attack hit the Jackson County, Georgia, government internal network recently, forcing most of the systems offline, according to ZDNet. In that case, the county paid $400,000 to cyber-criminals week to get rid of the ransomware infection and regain access to its IT systems.

Read the Globe article.



Will the Supreme Court Save This Movie Producer/Lawyer From 15 Years in Prison?

A bid to overturn a fraud conviction for Peter Hoffman, a lawyer turned movie producer, has picked up support from 14 retired federal judges, nine criminal law professors and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, reports The Hollywood Reporter.

Hoffman once ran a company called Carolco Pictures, which made some successful films. In the 1990s, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of filing a false tax return. Then, in 2014, federal prosecutors charged Hoffman with wire fraud for submitting false expense reports on a Louisiana mansion being transformed into a postproduction facility. Hoffman did so to get $1.13 million in movie tax credits issued by Louisiana, according to the Reporter‘s Eriq Gardner.

The trial court sentenced him to 60 months of probation, an unprecedented departure from federal sentencing guidelines that recommended a range of 168 to 210 months in prison. The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the trial court to take another look, possibly leading to a harsher sentence.

Hoffman has petitioned the court for a review.

Read the Hollywood Reporter article.



Biglaw Co-Chair Charged in College Bribery Scheme

Bloomberg Law reports that Willkie Farr & Gallagher Co-Chairman Gordon R. Caplan has been charged along with dozens of others, including Hollywood actors and executives, in a criminal conspiracy to bribe college admissions officials to gain admission for their children to top universities.

According to Bloomberg’s Melissa Heelan Stanzione, Caplan was arrested at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday and was released on $500,000 bail after appearing in Manhattan federal court.

Caplan has been charged with donating $75,000 to the Key Worldwide Foundation. “In an exchange detailed in court filings, two of the FBI’s cooperating witnesses agreed to proctor his daughter’s college entrance exam and correct the answers after she finished it,” Stanzione reports.

Another Bloomberg report contains a transcript of a discussion involving a call Caplan had with William Singer, the founder of a corrupt college counseling and test-prep business who would later become a cooperating witness:

“Look, I’m particularly interested in working with you guys and figuring out what’s best for [my daughter],” Caplan said, according to the criminal complaint, which details the conversation intercepted on a court-authorized wiretap.

Read the Bloomberg reports
here and here



Biglaw Firm Offers $10k Reward for Lead on Man Who Shot Associate

Ballard Spahr LLP has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the man who shot a Philadelphia associate of the firm.

The gunman shot 37-year-old Spencer Hill in the stomach during a botched robbery attempt as he headed home after a late night at the office, reports The Philadelphia Tribune.

He was in front of his home when the shooting occurred. He managed to make it inside his home where his wife called police. Doctors opted against operating, Hill said, indicating that it was safer to leave the bullet inside him than it would be to perform surgery to remove it.

Read the Tribune article.




What Not to Do: Construction Contractor Charged With Lying to OSHA

A post in the Seyfarth Shaw Workplace Safety and Environmental Law Alert Blog discusses the case of a construction contractor facing a perjury charge after he allegedly testified that he did not twice order employees to work on a roof. They fell through the roof both times.

During the investigation, OSHA discovered text messages indicating that the contractor had indeed issued the orders.

The case provides two important lessons, according to the authors of the post: Don’t lie under oath, especially when there exists discoverable evidence to the contrary, and be properly prepared and familiar with all relevant facts before providing testimony or statements during an investigation.

The contractor faces a potential penalty of five years in a prison and a $250,000 fine, if convicted.

Read the article.



Manafort Caught Sentence Break But Soon Faces Tougher Judge

Paul Manafort won leniency Thursday from a federal judge who sent him to prison for less than four years, but next week he’ll be sentenced in a second case by a less forgiving judge who could add another 10 years to his term, according to Bloomberg.

He faced as much as 24 years in prison for hiding $55 million offshore accounts, failing to pay $6 million in taxes, and defrauding banks.

But in a few days Manafort will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington, where he pleaded guilty to two conspiracy charges and pledged to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, report Bloomberg’s David Voreacos and Andrew M. Harris.

Jackson already has been strict with Manafort, sending him to jail after he was accused of tampering with witnesses. Jackson has the option of ordering any new sentence to be served consecutively or concurrently.

Read the Bloomberg article.



‘I’m Just Plain Guilty’: Former WV Supreme Court Justice Avoids Prison Time

Former West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Menis Ketchum admitted at his sentencing hearing Thursday on a fraud conviction that he was guilty. The federal judge hearing the case sentenced him to three years on probation and fined him $20,000.

West Virginia MetroNews Network reported Ketchum pleaded guilty last August to using a state vehicle and state gas card for personal trips to Virginia to play golf.

“Judge, I’m just plain guilty. I’m sorry but sorry is no excuse. I owe an apology to state judges. I’ve embarrassed them and caused havoc. They work hard and are underpaid. I apologize to them. I’m really sorry to my wife and three kids. They don’t deserve what I’ve done to them. I have no excuse,” Ketchum said.

Read the MetroNews article.