Legal Ethics

Fake Lawyer May Avoid Real Prison Sentence

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A paralegal who impersonated a lawyer for two years at a well-known plaintiffs insurance coverage law firm could get probation if he repays New York City-based Anderson Kill & Olick at least $150,000 by his scheduled Jan. 30 sentencing.

Otherwise, Brian Valery can expect a prison term of between five and 15 years from a New York state court. Valery, who pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny, initially worked for the firm as a paralegal, starting in 1998 at an annual salary of $21,000, according to the Associated Press. (Some news accounts say he started there in 1996.)

He was hired as a lawyer after falsely claiming he had graduated from night law school at Fordham University and passed the bar. In fact, he never even attended law school, recounts the Wall Street Journal Law Blog in a post earlier this year. His sham status reportedly was discovered in 2006 only after a college friend noticed he was listed as an attorney on Anderson Kill’s Web site and told the 132-lawyer firm something was wrong.

Valery also was charged over his alleged attorney impersonation in Connecticut, where he was temporarily admitted in 2005 for a specific case, reports the Connecticut Law Tribune. “At no point did anyone check the veracity of his credentials—not Anderson Kill, not Greenwich, Conn., attorney James R. Fogarty, who requested the court permit Valery’s appearance, and not Stamford Superior Court Judge Taggart D. Adams, who granted the application a month later,” writes the Tribune.

A June article by the New York Daily News says the Connecticut case is still pending.

Valery “admits he stole more than $200,000 from the firm by collecting a lawyer’s salary for almost two years,” the Associated Press article states.

Whether he gets prison or probation, it appears he will do considerably better in the sentencing department than another paralegal who recently impersonated a New York lawyer—and, unlike Valery, scammed $6 million from clients as a result. A sentence of up to 50 years was imposed on Mohammed Rafikian, as another post discusses.

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