White-Collar Crime

Lawyer Is Criminally Charged with UPL for Talking to Client Jailed re Drug and Money-Launder Case

A Santa Rosa, Calif., attorney who is known for his legal expertise concerning medical marijuana dispensaries is facing felony charges after prosecutors say he got too involved with a jailed client caught up in a drug-trafficking and money-laundering case.

But Michael Kenneth Beyries is not charged with any drug or money-laundering offense. Instead the lawyer—who briefly gave up his law license in October after another client complained to bar authorities concerning an apparently unrelated matter, but had been reinstated by November—is criminally charged with the unauthorized practice of law, the Press Democrat reports.

Beyries allegedly used his attorney privileges to meet with his jailed client, Theodore “Teo” Christos, 33, during a time when his license was not active. However, his defense counsel, Jack Montgomery, said the allegations against Beyries aren’t true and claimed the attorney is being targeted for prosecution because of his practice focus. Meanwhile, legal files and computer hard drives have been seized from Beyries’ office, and the two sides are arguing about whether they can be used as evidence in the Sonoma County case.

“I’m concerned with this prosecution,” Montgomery told the newspaper. “It’s a slippery slope when they start prosecuting attorneys. It becomes a frightening prospect.”

A prosecutor declined to comment when contacted by the newspaper. Sheriff’s Sgt. Steve Gossett, who is in charge of the narcotics division, said a yearlong investigation is still ongoing.

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