For the legions of attorneys who meticulously bill their time and expenses, LPR applauds your honesty and integrity. This cautionary tale is for those who work in firms with attorneys who engage in improper billing, those who think there is no harm adding time here and there, and those who believe their law degree is a license to steal.
On May 3, 2013, Wifredo A. Ferrer, the US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and the Miami Field Office of the FBI, issued a press release titled Two Defendants Charged In Theft From Seminole Tribe. Those two defendants, Frank Excel Marley III, an attorney, and his paralegal, Maria Hassun, are charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and theft. They are accused of defrauding the Seminole Tribe of Florida by inflating the amount of billable hours and billing for travel, conferences, meetings and phone calls that did not take place. Inflated and falsified invoices were allegedly submitted by email, US mail and fax. If convicted, the statutory sentence is 20 years in prison for the mail and wire fraud conspiracy count and five years for each of the nine counts of theft from the Tribe.
Should this inditement lead to a conviction, legal consumers will be empowered to lodge complaints with their local officials, and those officials will investigate. Make no mistake — padding your client bills is a crime — and the punishment can be severe.
You’ve got options. The Center for Legal Practice Reform can help you navigate the attorney/client relationship and level the playing field. Call LPR today for a free consultation – (301) 351-7970.