White Collar Crime
Nevada US Attorney sees ‘alarming’ rise in lawyer convictions; what is the reason?
Posted Jun 9, 2014 7:39 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
Nineteen Nevada lawyers, mostly from Las Vegas, were convicted in federal court since 2011, a big increase from the four lawyers convicted in the previous three years, according to a 2013 annual report by the Nevada U.S. Attorney.
Nineteen of those 23 convictions involved financial crimes such as tax evasion, bank fraud and mortgage fraud, the Las Vegas Review Journal reports.
Nevada U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden calls the increased number of convictions “alarming” in the annual report, the story says. “Although we cannot speculate as to the reason for the rise in numbers,” Bogden says, “we can say that it is embarrassing and sad when lawyers violate the very laws they have taken an oath to uphold.”
The newspaper spoke with other observers for their take on the reasons for the increase in lawyer convictions.
David Clark, the chief counsel for the State Bar of Nevada, attributes the increase to “a combination of economic realities and the increased vigilance on the part of federal prosecutors to go after lawyers.” Lawyers struggling in the bad economy got into ethical and legal trouble, he said, as they looked for new ways to make money.
Criminal defense lawyer Thomas Pitaro believes the stress of law practice contributes to the high conviction rate. “I think there are very few attorneys who steal for the hell of it,” Pitaro says. “It’s systematic of other problems—drugs, alcohol, gambling and living above their means.” He also says federal authorities giving more attention to white-collar and financial crimes, which are more likely to involve professionals.