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WOMAN CONVICTED IN PARALEGAL FRAUD SCHEME

 


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 8, 2004
Contact:
 Adam Radinsky, Deputy City Attorney, (310) 458-88327


Anita Laureen Clark today pleaded "no contest" to ten criminal charges, including six counts of grand theft, in a settlement reached with prosecutors in Santa Monica Superior Court.  The Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office had filed a total of 46 counts against Clark involving 35 different victims. Two of the victims had paid Clark more than $7,000 each.

The city charged that Clark posed as an attorney and bilked dozens of “clients” out of money. In other cases, Clark had said that she was a paralegal but then illegally performed attorney services – incompetently, resulting in disastrous consequences for the victims in their divorce, immigration, bankruptcy, and other cases.

Clark is scheduled to be released from jail later today after paying an initial $5,000 to the City Attorney’s Office to go towards the victims’ restitution. She has served 33 days in Los Angeles County Jail for violating the terms of her bail.

Clark’s sentence included the following:

  • Three years in county jail, which will be stayed as long as she complies with all the terms of probation.

  • She must pay back a total of $49,716.00 to the victims.

  • She is placed on five years’ formal probation.

  • She is forbidden from engaging in any law-related employment.

  • She must cancel all advertisements and telephone numbers from her business

  • She must get and keep a full-time job and provide proof of daily good faith attempts to get a job if she is unemployed.

  • She must periodically submit to questioning by prosecutors under oath regarding her assets, employment, and ability to pay restitution.

If additional past victims surface, they may also be included in the order for restitution.

The City Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit began investigating Clark last year after receiving complaints from several consumers who had hired her to perform legal work. On August 7, 2003, Santa Monica police executed a search warrant and seized files from Clark’s Santa Monica office. After a nearly four-month investigation, the Consumer Protection Unit filed the first criminal charges against Clark on December 1.

While Clark was free on bail, the City Attorney’s Office learned that she was continuing to conduct her illicit business in violation of the Court’s order. She has been held in jail on $200,000 bail for the past month.

Clark had operated under various business names and used offices throughout the Westside and the San Fernando Valley. The business names she used included:  Clark and Clark Paralegal; A. Clark and Associates; and A.C. and Associates.

Under state law, it is a crime for a person to practice law without being a licensed attorney. “Practicing law” includes giving legal advice, making legal decisions in a case, claiming to be an expert in an area of law, contacting the opposing party, writing legal documents – almost any task that a lawyer typically does. Non-attorneys are limited to two roles: providing purely clerical assistance; or doing paralegal work directly under a supervising attorney.

 “This case sends a clear message to consumers with legal problems,” said Deputy City Attorney Adam Radinsky. “If you try to save money by hiring a non-attorney, beware. They are breaking the law if they perform lawyer-like services without a supervising attorney.”

“This was a difficult case to resolve since the crimes were so serious and our primary goal has always been to recover the victims’ money,” said Radinsky. “We think that this is the best outcome to achieve that goal since Clark knows she will go back to jail for a long time if she fails to cooperate and return the money.”

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This page was last updated on 02/28/11.