A bunch of North Carolina lawyers have been busted for a scam they were running in the Johnston County courts. They “schemed to make drunken driving cases disappear,” reports the News & Observer.
Two lawyers, Chad Lee and Lee Hatch, have lost their law licenses and are heading to prison for four years. Two more, Jack McLamb and Vann Sauls, are on probation for three years. A former prosecutor who allegedly aided in the plot, Cindy Jaeger, still faces charges.
And all five are suffering the embarrassment of running a scam that didn’t seem to really benefit them in any way.
As Jaeger retired in 2007, she agreed to help the lawyers and a court clerk get drunk-driving charges for dozens of defendants dismissed. They were not subtle about filing the dismissals and wiping clients’ records clean.
“I cannot understand why anyone thought this was a good idea,” Superior Court Judge Henry Hight said moments before sentencing Lee. “Detection was almost certain given the records and the number of people involved. I don’t get it.” …
The scheme, explained in even the simplest terms, makes little sense. No one got rich. No one got a promotion or even congratulations. Some of the clients didn’t even know they were granted a favor.
So why throw away their careers? These were the perks for participating in the scam:
Lee treated Snead [the court clerk] to a trip in New York.
Hatch and Lee helped Jaeger move to Winston-Salem in fall 2007.
Sexy perks those are not.
Essentially, it appears to be a scheme based on laziness. The lawyers collected money from their clients, about $1,500 per case, for the dismissals, but didn’t have to go through the normal legal rigmarole. Now, unfortunately, the lawyers have to pay their clients back.
Baffled judge nails lawyers in DWI scam [Raleigh News & Observer]