Criminal Justice

Phony Lawyer Sentenced to Four Years in Prison

A man who duped clients and colleagues into believing he was a lawyer has been sentenced to four years and three months in prison.

Howard Kieffer was sentenced Friday in Bismarck, N.D., after he was convicted on charges of mail fraud and making false statements in connection with his appellate representation of convicted defendants, the Associated Press reports. Two witnesses had testified at Kieffer’s trial that they each paid Kieffer at least $20,000 to represent loved ones in appeals.

In just the past four years, Kieffer represented at least 18 federal defendants, filing motions in 12 states, according to an ABA Journal story published in April. In 2007 and 2008 alone, he earned at least $92,000 in legal fees, according to court records.

Prosecutors had recommended the sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge Patrick Conmy. The judge also ordered Kieffer to pay more than $152,000 in restitution to clients in five criminal cases, but said it was unlikely Kieffer would be able to pay the full amount, the AP story says.

Kieffer’s lawyer, Joshua Lowther, of Savannah, Ga., said an appeal is planned. Lowther told AP that most of Kieffer’s work came from referrals by lawyers.

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