Crime, Legal Ethics

Man Pretends To Be Lawyer, Becomes Criminal Defendant

By all accounts, Stephen G. Dickerman is a pretty good lawyer. He retired from practice a few years back.

By all accounts, Stephen G. Dickerman is a pretty poor lawyer. He’s an unknown man who appears to have stolen the former’s identity.

In a bizarre story out of Brooklyn, the FBI arrested a man for using the identity of the retired Stephen G. Dickerman to operate a law practice in Brighton Beach for the last several years.

How easy is it to steal a lawyer’s identity? Shockingly easy it turns out. As in, you should be really worried about your identity easy.

As of now, authorities still have no idea who this guy really is — he still insists that he’s Stephen G. Dickerman, practicing under his supposed Hebrew name as Shlomo Dickerman. The only thing we know for sure is that this guy’s got a lot of chutzpah….

How did Shlomo Dickerman get Stephen G. Dickerman’s law license? Shouldn’t you need some personal information to pull that off?

The lawyer whose identity was stolen did not respond to repeated notices in 2008 and 2009 requiring him to renew his attorney registration in New York, according to an arrest and search warrant affidavit filed in Brooklyn federal court. In 2009, an individual claiming to be Stephen G. Dickerman showed up at the registration office and received a copy of the delinquent notice form, which included the lawyer’s Social Security number, date of birth, the law school he attended and his attorney registration number.

Oh, so they’ll just give that to you if you ask nicely. Who needs the Internet when stealing an identity is as easy as asking nicely at your local state bar office? If you haven’t called your state bar and asked them for a guarantee that this couldn’t happen in your state, maybe go ahead and do that now.

Sneaking into court by assuming the identity of a lawyer who no longer practices used to be a heroic thing:

Unfortunately, Shlomo wasn’t as skilled as Mr. Gambini.

As authorities have pieced together the story, after snagging Stephen G. Dickerman’s license, Shlomo Dickerman practiced for a few years before deciding to “take his talents to Cadman Plaza” and get sworn in to the Eastern District of New York in 2012. Since then, Shlomo Dickerman appeared in at least 12 federal suits.

In Gokadze v. Hynes — a case against, among others, Eric Holder and New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, so you know it’s not frivolous — Judge Roslynn Mauskopf offered a review of Shlomo Dickerman:

For purposes of this dismissal, the Court will highlight the main failures of Gokadze’s counsel, Stephen “Shlomo” Dickerman, in prosecuting this case. On January 4, 2012, this Court ordered Mr. Dickerman to file a letter by January 12, 2012 “as to whether or not he intended to continue his representation of plaintiff.” Mr. Dickerman did not comply with the Court’s order, as he filed nothing in response by January 12, 2012, or even to date. Moreover, Mr. Dickerman did not file letters in response to the defendants’ pre-motion conference letters as per the undersigned’s Individual Practice Rule III.A.2. Mr. Dickerman did not appear at the pre-motion conference scheduled for December 12, 2012, and did not contact the Court to explain his absence after the Court attempted to reach him that day. Finally, Mr. Dickerman did not respond to the Court’s Order to Show Cause by December 27, 2012.

Shlomo boasts an Avvo rating of 6.5, which is considered “Good.” That said, his only client review is less than stellar and reflects Judge Mauskopf’s opinion:

Mr Dickerman is my present attorney. He is a terrible lawyer who takes his sweet time in handling a case. He has failed in protecting me. He lied to me on several occasions. He will not return calls and delays Emails. He has not looked for my best interests. I regret hiring him. please do not use him.

Bad lawyering apparently is enough to get the attention of the FBI these days.

By the summer, federal authorities had become suspicious. At a seemingly routine hearing in July on a class-action case that the suspect had filed two months earlier, agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation quietly observed the proceedings. One of the agents had already met the real Stephen G. Dickerman, the affidavit says.

Two weeks later, two F.B.I. agents, posing as potential clients, arrived at the Brighton 11th Street address of the suspect.

Taking notes on a legal pad, that man said he would represent the clients for a $10,000 retainer and $400 an hour. He handed over his business card; it read “Shlomo G. Dickerman, JD, LLM, Esq.”

An LL.M.? Why? Stephen G. Dickerman graduated from Duke Law and has no LL.M. Shlomo Dickerman just added an LL.M. from NYU when he applied to the EDNY.

At the moment, the identity of Shlomo Dickerman remains unconfirmed, but there is a theory:

[Lan] Nguyen, the prosecutor, pointed out that when the defendant was arrested, he had a New York State driver’s license in the name of Steven H. Dickman. That man, she said, “appears to be a disbarred attorney with a criminal history”: two convictions on grand larceny charges, of which one resulted in a three-year prison sentence.

Well at least he might have been an attorney. You really shouldn’t be expected to pay someone $400/hour to do nothing unless they’ve really gotten a law degree.

Judge Mauskopf’s benchslap is on the next page if you’re interested.

Brooklyn Lawyer Arrested For Not Actually Being a Lawyer [Gawker]
Man is accused of stealing lawyer’s identity by duping attorney registration officials [ABA Journal]
Legal Clients Called Him Shlomo; U.S. Calls Him a Fraud [New York Times]

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