California Bar Journal
CBJ - July 2012 #01.
Lawyers falling victim to identity theft
The California LawyerJuly 2012Lawyers falling victim to identity theftBy Amy Yarbrough Staff WriterIt was one of those situations that lawyers dread.
In late March, Max Gerald "Jerry" Garcia got a call from a receptionist at his firm that two angry clients were there to see him and remembers thinking, "not again."
Garcia was as shocked to see Luz and Daniel Fraire as they were to see him.
It quickly became apparent that someone posing as Garcia had taken the mother and son's money only to abandon them and their case.
"The guy was nowhere to be found," said Garcia, a partner with Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard and Smith in Los Angeles. "He took the money and ran, so to speak. It had been going on for some time so they came over to the office."
Garcia and the Fraires notified police in Alhambra, where Daniel Fraire lives. Investigators discovered the imposter was disbarred attorney Gerard Lionel Garcia-Barron and arrested him April 11. Garcia-Barron, 46, pleaded guilty to grand theft on May 14, and was sentenced to 180 days in jail and three years probation.
While authorities moved quickly to stop Garcia-Barron, crimes like his appear to be on the rise.
Dane Dauphine, assistant chief trial counsel with the State Bar, said the agency has been noticing an uptick in identity theft cases targeting its members. Even so, the State Bar is often limited in what it can do.
The State Bar has no jurisdiction over disbarred attorneys, Dauphine said. If a disbarred member or a non-attorney sets up an office, the State Bar could shut it down although "most of the reports we get for ID theft are fly by night."
"There seems to be more of this happening," he said. "Really, it requires law enforcement to go after these non-lawyers."
To date, the State Bar has received reports of potential identify theft involving 111 member records - incidents that can range from the more speculative, such as a member whose wallet was stolen with their bar card inside it, to the more concrete, like someone illegally using an attorney's name to send out debt collection notices. In either scenario a member's profile would be flagged so that State Bar employees know to be cautious should they receive calls or complaints about that attorney.
In 2004, the year the State Bar first...