Refuge for the DisbarredPosted on December 16th, 2009 Mark Bennett 18 comments
See this exchange (very tall JPEG) between Miami bar defense lawyer Brian Tannebaum and
real estate lawyer real estate law specialist Real Estate Law & Investment Specialist, Broker & Social Media Consultant; Deal Closer & innovatorreal-estate-law-investments-loss-mitigation-and-social-media-consulting something Kathleen A. Scanlon.
Brian’s target, it seems, pled guilty to mortgage fraud in state court in New York, and while awaiting sentencing and delinquent with the bar continued to “network” as a real estate lawyer on Twitter. When Brian inquired, she responded. There was some back-and-forth, and then she deleted her own replies to Brian and claimed not to have (“I don’t know why my replies are not showing up . . . what did I delete??? are you insane?” Then she changed her bio on Twitter—three times. (Tannebaum twitted, “I want to apologize to everyone for turning @kasesq94 into a “Social Media Consultant.”)
I sympathize with Scanlon, trying to make the best of the very bad situation she’s gotten herself into. She may well have a partner and employees (if you believe her website, she has a staff of beautiful people in expensive suits) who are depending on her to make a smooth transition to what she calls her “hiatus,” and a family depending on her to bring food home during that break.
I also understand the appeal of “Social Media Consultant.” It is a title that any idiot can give himself; it requires no sort of expertise whatsoever, and no equipment but a computer with an internet connection (which the former lawyer won’t be using to practice law). Barriers to entry in this specialty are very low. Scanlon will not be the first lawyer who, forced out of the practice of law, has redefined herself as a blog or other social media expert.
In fact, it follows from the basic premise of online marketing—that, as self-proclaimed expert Adrianos Facchetti writes, “You are what Google says you are”—that by merely marketing yourself online as an expert you become an expert qualified to take people’s money to tell them how to become experts by marketing themselves online as experts. It’s turtles all the way down.
So what’s wrong with that? If some naive lawyer, not having the first clue about online social media, wants to pay a convicted, disbarred, or otherwise disgraced ex-lawyer to show her the ropes, what harm is done?
None, if the naif knows what she is getting and the consultant doesn’t lead her to do anything untoward or deceptive. But when the disgraced lawyer is deliberately concealing the fact that he is a disgraced lawyer, these questions are raised: is the naif getting what she thinks she is getting (or is she trusting someone whom she would not trust if the truth were revealed); and will the consultant, for whom deception has worked, teach the naif to be open and honest (or will he teach her what worked for him: concealment and deception)?
I appreciate that it might be difficult for the social media expert to get hired if the world knows that he has been disbarred for raiding minors’ trust funds or convicted of mortgage fraud, and I believe strongly in redemption, but holding oneself out as something one is not seems to me an unlikely path to redemption.
So what did disgraced lawyers do before there was such a thing as a social media consultant?
They got real jobs or went homeless.
It appears that your little group has plenty of time on your hands and I knew that you would have nothing better to talk about other than the diatribe from last night but I certainly didn’t think you would start discussing my family and bashing the time I spend with my children. Another example from this morning:
“@jackieesquire No, I think not. I have a gingerbread-making appointment with a kindergarten class this afternoon.”
What is wrong with you???? And, let me correct a piece of familial mis-information – I am not the “bread-winner” in my family.
With respect to the criminal case, I pled to Scheme to Defraud because I was advised to do so in light of the non-incarceration promise, the seriousness of the charges & possible penalties, the incredibly prohibitive cost of going to trial (which is what I wanted to do at the risk of blowing my children’s college education fund) and probably the most important – that I am the mother of two elementary school age boys. Perhaps you might want to peruse the indictment for a better background on this case: http://manhattanda.org/whatsnew/press/2009-07-8.pdf . Use your super criminal lawyer skills and search my name in there. My lawyer’s first reaction was “what did you do? where is the crime?”. I put my family first, ahead of the law license because I have my priorities straight.
I am further amazed that the criminal bar blogs about the failings of the criminal justice system, prosecutorial misconduct etc. but that you decide now to become self-righteous and look down your nose at me. I think Gideon said it best in his post at http://apublicdefender.com/2009/10/18/id-probably-run/ :
“I’d never, never (well okay, almost never) risk a jury trial. I’ve come to the conclusion that jury trials are a crapshoot. That you’re always taking an immense risk placing your fate in the hands of 6 (or 12) strangers, who might have their own agenda and their own skewed view of the evidence. That you’re placing your fate in the hands of your lawyer, who may – with the best of intentions – pick the wrong approach to convince your jury.
Everyone knows what the consequences are of going to trial and losing. It’s called the trial tax for a reason.
I’m more convinced than ever that I’d never take that risk. That I’d probably plead to something I didn’t do to spare myself the agony of the Russian roulette that is a jury trial.
I’m sure there are many more like me. Which means there are many, many more innocent people in jail than we currently estimate.”
Further, not only did I not hide this horrible mess, I tweeted about it – take for instance “ritabrad RT @kasesq94 I got referred 2 buyers. Closed 3 deals and all of a sudden I’m part of a criminal enterprise. Its a nightmare.” I have had twitter conversations with some great criminal law attorneys about the mess and, unlike your group, have taken the time to read the indictment and understand the nature of the case. It is also evidenced by my twitter conversation with @btannenbaum – I answered each and every one of his questions. I have used it to warn other real estate attorneys that appearances count and how to try to avoid getting caught in the net.
With respect to the website you referred to, it hasn’t been updated in at least over a year and we do not own the domain – that is why I do not link to it. My sites and profiles do, in fact, reflect my status. I do not have anything to hide – my clients and colleagues know what kind of person I am. But, contrary to apparently yours & btannenbaum’s opinion, I don’t feel as if I need to wear it as a badge either and I have been advised by my attorneys not to discuss the matter.
As far as social media goes, I have been doing part-time consulting work for some real estate colleagues and local businesses so I would think it more than proper to have “Social Media Consultant” as part of my bio. Again, unlike you and your cronies, I use twitter and other social networking sites to share useful information – not bash people nor do I solicit business there. Not once. Further, I did not add the title last night – it has been there – but I have been rewording all of my bios and profiles recently to correctly align with where I am currently at professionally.
I used to respect you and the others – I see that you are no different than the other jaded members of the criminal bar whether on the government side or not. It also makes me more comfortable with my decision to sacrifice my law license – I don’t want to be part of a profession that counts you and your kind among its members.
Good luck to you and Merry Christmas!
If I were her lawyer, I would advise her to NOT discuss this pending sentencing. It may surprise her to know that judges, prosecutors and even court baliffs know how to use the internet.
One of the first things I recommend to clients is to shut down their myspace, facebook and twitter accounts pending a resolution.
Strange I don’t believe I have discussed the actual merits of the case but merely pointed you to the indictment which, of course, is public record, as well as the reasoning behind accepting a plea deal. Which, I believe, is the reasoning process behind any plea deal. As far as “ripping off” anyone, I collected my legal fee from my client – there are no allegations otherwise. Again, the sole allegation is that I participated in a sham closing by representing a buyer or seller.
Further, it wasn’t mortgage fraud my friend – that didn’t come on the books until Fall of 2008 here in NY.
The American taxpayer is paying for those individuals who lived far above their means and:
1. decided to use their homes as an ATM; and
3. lied about their income and assets;
There are two types of fraud – Fraud for Housing & Fraud for Profit. These examples fall under the category of Fraud for Housing. Fraud for Housing Makes up 85% of the mortgage fraud committed.
It is the policy of the enforcement agents not to prosecute Fraud for Housing. Go figure.
Your indictment (which you’ve kindly linked to) speaks to itself. What it describes (as you say in your next-to-last paragraph) is mortgage fraud, whether New York called it that on the books or not.
(Which count or counts did you plead guilty to, by the way?)
Are you saying that you participated in a sham closing without knowing that it was a sham closing? Because, other than the Magic Money theory, I don’t see how knowingly participating in a sham closing is not ripping someone off.
Scheme to Defraud in the 1st and as you correctly said, I cannot yet answer the question regarding my “participation”. Once this is done and overwith, I would be more than happy to expound on the subject.
AFG apparently closed hundreds of transactions starting in the early 2000s. I was referred those clients the end of 2007 beginning of 2008 when they apparently turned in their mortgage broker license. Discovery indicated that AFG employees had altered title documents, provided fake Verification of Deposits, Verifications of Employments, etc., paid off buyers after closing back at their respective homes (in the indictment) and so forth. Bank underwriters ignored First American Core Logic Fraud Reports and issued approvals on patently unqualified buyers & questionable properties.
Unfortunately, again, I cannot comment on these facts at this time.
But my point is, I didn’t hide this nightmare, all the clients & colleagues of the firm are aware of it and I have been adjusting my online profiles to be in line with my situation. I have profiles on numerous sites and the twitter profile was one of the only ones I had not gotten to. I rarely visit the twitter site itself as I access the twitter feed through TweetDeck.
As far as social media goes, I am not a guru selling a $29 e-book on how to get more followers or other such nonsense. I am a tech geek – I do a lot of work with Photoshop and web design – more as a hobby. Friends and clients have asked me to help them create profiles, blogs and so forth and how to manage the overwhelming influx of information so as not to end up with “information overload”. This is not a career for me per se – its just something I enjoy.
Not one of my posts, tweets etc. was a solicitation for business. Each and every one is a content share. Solicitations for business constitute spam.
Okay, let’s not talk about the facts; let’s talk about what you told the judge (though not under oath) when you pled guilty.
Did the elements of the offense to which you pled guilty include some culpable mental state? Or does New York punish lawyers who are involved in schemes to defraud even when they don’t know the nature of the schemes?
Was it an Alford plea, or did you tell the judge that you were pleading guilty because you were guilty? (Fingers crossed?)
Then let’s talk about Magic Money, which can wind up in the pockets of fraudsters without any loss to anyone.
After we’ve exhausted those topics, we can talk about disappearing tweets, without which this post wouldn’t likely have been written.