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Scammers Assume Identities of California Lawyers Using Online Information

Posted Jun 25, 2012 8:02 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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As many as 111 California lawyers may have fallen victim to identity thieves in the past decade, according to the state bar.

The scammers use online information to get consumers to fork over legal fees or pay “debts” they don’t owe, the Recorder reports. So far this year, 13 lawyers have told the State Bar of California they may be identity theft victims.

The story tells of two lawyers whose identities were stolen.

Max Gerald "Jerry" Garcia, a partner at Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, learned his identity was stolen when he got a visit from a man who believed Garcia was his lawyer. The client found Garcia’s office through the state bar’s website after he paid $1,000 to a man who claimed to be Garcia and then disappeared. The identity thief, a disbarred lawyer, pleaded guilty to grand theft in May for taking $7,000 from would-be clients.

Mohamed Salem, a civil engineer who occasionally practices law, learned a fake lawyer had stolen his identity when he was contacted about strange loan modification papers. The fake lawyer was using Salem’s name in a series of court filings on behalf of homeowners fighting foreclosure. The fake lawyer pleaded guilty to identity theft in August 2010.

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