What am I talking about? A surprising number of clients believe that there is a way, someone, something, for them to buy themselves out of their troubles. They look in my eyes, a sheepish grin on their face, and ask whether there's a person I might know, be it a judge, a clerk, a cop, anyone, who would take a suitcase filled with money and make these problems go away. There must be someone, they say, as their look turns to desperation.
What if I told them what they want to hear? Sure, there's this guy who can do magic. But it will cost you, big. Huge. When they're facing a lifetime in prison, they can deal with "huge." All reason shuts down and they will do anything. Anything.
But, it's not 100%. There's always the chance that something goes wrong, someone sees something and it all gets blown. Maybe it doesn't happen. It's not a lock, and you don't get your money back. Are you still willing to do it?
Desperation trumps reason. Yes, they say. Yes, they are still willing to do it. And that's the scam. They come in with a suitcase stuffed with Franklins. They know it's illegal, so the chances of their ever saying anything about their own illegal conduct is slim. When it doesn't happen, you tell the sad story of how it was inches away from completion when [make up silly excuse] screwed the deal. You look just miserable about it, and together you and the client cry over the lost money and life. Then you walk away and rub the bills over your naked body.
There's even a variation on this theme that bolsters the myth. You get a call from the AUSA telling you that they're going to nolle the case. You immediately tell the defendant that an "opportunity" has arisen for them to buy their way out, for a quick, say, $100 grand. They pay. The case is tossed, The myth of your magic powers spreads. Your credibility is established.
This scam happens. I've wondered how those who do it survive, as some clients are not inclined to take the theft of vast amounts of money lightly, but I suppose the lawyers are such fabulous liars that they persuade the defendant that it's was just horribly bad luck, and not their fault. Stercus accidit.
Yesterday morning, a well-known criminal defense lawyer was arrested. From the Houston Chron:
Abraham Moses Fisch, 52, a criminal defense attorney in Houston, was arrested this morning on charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering, federal prosecutors said.The word is that he's a fighter, a top trial lawyer. There is nothing to preclude a lawyer with great skill in the courtroom from also having larceny in his heart. The United States Attorney's press release says:
According to the indictment, Williams, although not an attorney, held himself out as someone who could resolve criminal cases through his contacts with government officials. Williams, Fisch and Bertman worked together to solicit federal criminal defendants as clients under false pretenses. They claimed to the defendants that Williams had the power to cause their criminal charges to be dismissed or their sentence reduced if they would hire Fisch as their attorney, pay a large sum of money to Fisch and Williams and then provide Williams with information about their crimes. Williams claimed he would then pass that information along to contacts in various federal agencies. In return, Williams claimed his contacts would cause the criminal charges against the defendants to be dismissed or their sentences reduced.
The charges against Fisch, as reflected in the indictment, leave much to be desired. They don't seem to capture the factual allegations proffered by the government, and strike me as poor charging choices given what they claim Fisch did. But that's the government's problem, and if they can't figure out how to properly charge a defendant, then the charges should be tossed.
That said, the factual allegations, of Fisch and Williams running a scam to suck the ill-gotten gains from criminals who are sufficiently desperate that they will fall for such an absurd scheme, have the smell of reality. Whether Fisch did it, who knows. That's for the government to prove.
But I can state with absolute certainty that this scam happens. And there is no word in the lexicon to express the depth of my disgust for any criminal defense lawyer who would do this.