White-Collar Crime

$1M overbilling claim leads to criminal case against lawyer and office manager

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A former office manager for a small Florida law firm who was federally indicted earlier this month, along with her ex-boss, in an alleged conspiracy to overbill a client by $1 million has taken a plea.

Maria Hassun pleaded guilty to one theft count in federal court in Fort Lauderdale and admitted that she helped attorney Frank Excel Marley III pad bills for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports.

Marley, who now works for a different law firm, has pleaded not guilty to charges of theft from Indian tribal organizations and one count of wire and mail fraud conspiracy.

Prosecutors said Marley billed the client nearly $3.2 million between 2006 and 2011 and allege that around $1 million was fraudulently obtained.

The article doesn’t include any comment from either defendant. However, Marley’s lawyer, Bruce Zimet, told the Sun-Sentinel earlier this month that “We fully expect that once all of the facts come out, Mr. Marley will be completely vindicated.”

Marley was retained in 2006 to represent the tribe on sports and entertainment matters as it sought Federal Communications Commission approval and constructed two radio stations on reservation land. He is being accused by the feds of padding, with Hassun’s help, bills for work done by law firms in Indianapolis and Washington, D.C., before submitting them to the tribe for payment.

He is also accused of billing nearly $100,000 to attend Native American Broadband Association conferences in Washington, D.C., that the feds say were not in, in fact, held.

A press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida provides further details and links to a copy of the grand jury indictment (PDF) that was made public earlier this month.

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