LAW OFFICE COLLAPSES AFTER LAW MAKERS SAY THEY’VE BEEN RIPPING OFF CRIMIC LAW REFERS by Kristin Kucinich article NEW YORK — Lawyers for three law firms that have faced lawsuits alleging they were ripped off by a criminal lawyer say the cases are part of a pattern of “patterns of fraud” that have eroded trust in the legal profession.
Lawyers for Kroll, Kaplan, and Covington have said they are investigating fraud charges that they say are part and parcel of the legal system’s “toxic culture” that is “hurting our profession.”
The lawyers say they are taking legal action against the attorneys, who they say failed to follow the law in hiring and vetting clients, failing to disclose conflicts of interest and other improper practices.
The law firms say they will seek unspecified monetary damages.
The lawyers’ lawyers, in separate filings Friday, say they filed the cases on behalf of clients in cases that include a man accused of stealing $20,000 from a hospital in Georgia, a woman accused of fraudulently acquiring her home and car and a man charged with falsifying tax returns to avoid paying income taxes.
Law firms in New York have been under scrutiny after a new report accused them of misleading clients, inflating salaries, misrepresenting court documents and charging fees that went beyond their normal rates.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and other law enforcement officials have called on the state to change how the state treats financial crime, particularly cases involving fraud.
Kroll and Kaplan declined to comment.
Kaplan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Lawyer Robert Zagrebsky, who represented the man in the Georgia case, said in an email that the allegations are “not accurate, false and outrageous.”
He said that when the man was arrested in Georgia and the allegations were made in court, he was told that his attorney would represent him.
“They didn’t tell me he had to take the money and go to jail.
He had a choice,” Zagresky said.
Kaplan and Kroll declined to discuss their clients, who did not return calls seeking comment.
The New York attorney general said in a statement that he is looking into the allegations against the law firms.
“The Attorney General’s Office has been working closely with the state and has the resources to pursue this matter,” the statement said.
“We are confident that these claims are baseless and baseless allegations.”
Kaplan did not respond to an email seeking comment Friday.
The firm did not appear in court Friday to answer questions about its practice.
The attorneys’ attorneys say the New York case highlights a problem that has plagued the legal community in the past several years.
“It’s hard to have confidence in a legal system that relies so heavily on money and that doesn’t trust its own professionals,” said Covingston attorney Daniel Bowers.
“I don’t think this is just a new trend, but it’s one that I think has been brewing in the criminal justice system for years.”
In a 2015 report, the Center for Public Integrity concluded that “the criminal justice systems of many states are failing to properly investigate and prosecute financial crime.”
The center cited “systemic failures” and “systematic biases” in how the law and law enforcement agencies are handling financial crimes.
The report also highlighted a “lack of accountability” among law enforcement and prosecutors, and said there is “a lack of a sense of accountability among the public about the criminal behavior of criminal defendants and prosecutors.”