The Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office recently charged an elderly art dealer with Theft By Deception, Forgery, and Unauthorized Practice Of Law. Last December, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Financial Crimes Unit received a complaint from a victim who hired the defendant to represent him in an estate settlement. Indeed, the victim claimed that he paid $15,500.00 in legal and professional fees for the estate work. Later, however, he learned of the defendant’s disbarment. Additionally, the investigation revealed the New Jersey Supreme Court had disbarred the defendant from the practice of law in 1998. The investigation further revealed that the defendant had deposited the monies from the victim into his personal bank account and used them for his own purposes. The defendant also forged the victim’s signature on multiple checks amounting to $21,500.00 for a total loss of $37,000.00. Consequently, the authorities charged the defendant with two counts of Theft By Deception, one count of Forgery, and one count of Unauthorized Practice Of Law. The charges are merely accusations and that the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Unauthorized Practice of Law, N.J.S.A. 2c:21-22
A person is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree if the person knowingly engages in the unauthorized practice of law.
A person is guilty of a crime of the third degree if the person knowingly engages in the unauthorized practice of law and:
- Creates or reinforces, by any means, a false impression that the person is licensed to engage in the practice of law. As used in this paragraph, “by any means” includes but is not limited to using or advertising the title of lawyer or attorney-at-law, or equivalent terms, in the English language or any other language, which mean or imply that the person is licensed as an attorney-at-law in the State of New Jersey or in any other jurisdiction of the United States; or
- Derives a benefit; or
- In fact causes injury to another.
For the purposes of this section, the phrase “in fact” indicates strict liability.
Did the authorities charge you with Unauthorized Practice of Law?
New Jersey Criminal Attorney Michael A. Smolensky, Esquire, knows how to protect his clients. Mr. Smolensky can provide confidential consultations in all cases involving Unauthorized Practice of Law under N.J.S.A. 2c:21-22.