PHOENIX — We’ve all heard the jokes and complaints about how lawyers supposedly scam people out of their life savings. But while most lawyers are honest professionals who just want to advocate for their clients as well as they can, a recent criminal case in Arizona tried a man who not only bilked people out of thousands of dollars — he wasn’t even a real attorney.
Gary Karpin, who had been running a business called “Divorce with Dignity”, posed as a family law attorney for many years until he was arrested for fraud as well as 23 counts of theft. A jury found him guilty in October, and last week in Maricopa County Superior Court, he received a sentence of 15 years in jail (minus the 194 days he has already served).
There is also a civil suit against Karpin in progress.
“As one of the victims said,” Judge Warren Granville told Karpin, 57, according to indie news source The
The state of Vermont disbarred Karpin from practicing law in 1992, after which he relocated in Arizona and established “Divorce with Dignity” while pretending to be a lawyer. He scammed numerous people for years until January 2005, when the Pheonix New Times ran a story about one of his victims, Gina Niedzwiecki. The article motivated other former “clients” of Karpin’s to publicize their experiences.
Niedzwiecki reportedly paid Karpin almost $90,000 over five and a half years and eventually filed for bankruptcy. She cannot work because she has multiple sclerosis. Niedzwiecki has requested financial restitution from the defendant, in order to keep the house where she and her daughters live. “Money was his motivation,” she told the court, according to The
“I can’t even afford airfare to visit my father before he passes away,” TZR quoted Niedzwiecki as saying. Her father is terminally ill and has no more than a few weeks left to live.
Nine other victims of Karpin’s fraud told their stories in the case, including a woman named
Five people testified on Karpin’s behalf, including his sister from Vermont and his daughter. Just before receiving his sentence, Karpin apologized to the court for “violating the trust” of his victims. “Whatever sentence the court imposes on me,” he told the court, according toTZR, “I will accept it.”
The obvious lesson here is that crime doesn’t pay. But as ordinary people going through a divorce (or other legal issues), we can learn from this too. It’s very important to assure ourselves of the credentials of the lawyers we hire. Make sure you’re finding your divorce professionals through a respectable source — such as DivorceMagazine.com, which offers information on first-rate divorce lawyers, CDFAs, therapists, and other professionals across the United States and Canada.