From the New York Law Journal (which today permitted me to grab the entire article): Debtor Scheme Lands Attorney in Prison | New York Law Journal. It begins:
A federal judge handed a suspended New York attorney a nine-year prison term on Wednesday for running a debt collection relief scheme as a manager of the now-shuttered Mission Settlement Agency.
Michael Levitis, 38, was ordered by Southern District Judge Paul Gardephe (See Profile) to pay $2,196,522 in restitution to his victims—some 1,200 customers who were solicited for relief from their debt troubles through fraudulent telemarketing and direct mail. Levitis, who pleaded guilty in April, was also ordered to pay a fine of $4,393,044.
The scheme involved promising debtors for a monthly fee of $49 that the company would negotiate with debt holders directly, but in reality it did little or no work.
Although the story is about one bad lawyer, it is in non-TV reality (there is a difference) a major lesson to anyone who is in debt and is anxious to find a lawyer.
I’m sure we all see the same TV commercials for lawyers advertising how they’ll help desperate people with bankruptcy or close-to-bankruptcy problems. I know I’ve written previously (and probably with a soupçon of snark) that I am and will forever be dubious about all those TV lawyer commercials.
It is certainly not how I would look for a lawyer but I can understand how anxious people who don’t know any lawyers could be grateful that there’s a pleasant-looking lawyer on TV who is offering to help.
So this article is a major major warning: if you are too overcome with TV-produced gratitude to be cautious about retaining a lawyer to help you out of financial troubles, a bad lawyer like this one could hurt you, too.