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March 1, 2011

FAKE LAWYER SENTENCED TO PRISON FOR OBSTRUCTING JUSTICE AND LYING TO THE COURT

(LAREDO, Texas) – A 28-year-old Dallas area resident who falsely represented himself to the U.S. District Court in Laredo to be a lawyer licensed to practice law has been sentenced to prison, fined and ordered to pay restitution to his former “clients,” United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today. 

Dale Allen Richardson Jr., 28, of Plano, Texas, was found guilty in October 2010 following a jury trial of obstructing the due administration of justice in each of two court appearances before United States Magistrate Judge J. Scott Hacker and of making false statements in the pro hac vice motion filed with the court. All three counts of conviction arose from Richardson’s unlawful representation of a defendant in a criminal case pending before U.S. Magistrate Judge J. Scott Hacker. On Monday, U.S. District judge Micaela Alvarez sentenced Richardson to serve 65 months in federal prison on each of two counts of conviction for obstruction of justice and the maximum statutory sentence of 60 months for the making of a false statement to the court conviction. The sentences are to be served concurrently. Additionally, Judge Alvarez fined Richardson $3,000 and further ordered that he pay restitution in the amount of $25,113.90, a sum that represents a portion of the fees he collected from “clients.” The prison terms are to be followed by a three-year-term of supervised release. 

Richardson’s lack of credentials to practice law was discovered through an FBI investigation initiated after Richardson filed a pro hac vice motion identifying himself as the “Law Office of Dale Richardson, P.C.” requesting the court’s permission to temporarily appear in the Southern District of Texas court to represent an alien defendant charged with the misdemeanor offense of illegally entering the United States in June 2010. The U.S. District Clerk’s office was unable to verify Richardson’s claimed admission to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts bar. Richardson had appeared twice on behalf of the defendant in federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Scott Hacker. In his motion, Richardson claimed to be licensed to practice law not only by the Massachusetts Bar Association but also by the Cherokee Nation Bar Association. When asked by the clerk’s office to verify his claimed licenses, Richardson re-submitted the same information and included a copy of a badge emblazoned with the words, “Attorney,” “Officer of the Court” and “Cherokee Nation.”  

The FBI’s investigation showed that through his business cards and a web page for his “law firm” Richardson advertised himself as an experienced “US Immigration Attorney” and a “federal defense attorney” with an office in Farmers Branch, Texas. In 2009, Richardson had sought to be admitted as a licensed attorney in federal court in the Eastern District of Oklahoma and in 2010 had represented clients, including the alien defendant charged with the misdemeanor illegal entry case in Laredo, in immigration court in Dallas, Texas. However, the FBI’s investigation further found that despite his representations, Richardson was not licensed in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The FBI also determined that while Richardson had gained admission to the bar of the Supreme Court of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma in 2009, he did so by stealing the bar number of an attorney with a similar sounding name who is licensed in California. During trial, the clerk for the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court testified that Richardson was disbarred on Oct. 4, 2010, after it was discovered that Richardson had fraudulently gained admission to its bar. Moreover, Richardson’s “Attorney” badge was fake because the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court does not issue to its licensed attorneys any badges. 

At yesterday’s sentencing hearing, Judge Alvarez heard evidence about Richardson’s extensive planning and the scope of his fraud. Richardson fabricated dozens of documents to portray himself as an attorney with an established law office, including judicial certificates of good standing, bar memberships, business cards and other advertisements, law firm stationary and client retainer agreements. Richardson, who claimed to specialized in immigration law, typically represented undocumented aliens in removal proceedings in Dallas immigration court or to gain immigration benefits such as visas. He charged fees averaging $2,500. The government introduced evidence of client representation contracts and corresponding receipts for cash payments made by duped clients. Evidence also showed that Richardson continued taking new paying clients until days before his trial in Laredo. While out on bond pending his trial, Richardson also relocated his office from Farmers Branch to a better location in Dallas across the street from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Removal and Deportation Office. In addition to these aggravated circumstances, the government also argued that Richardson in his greed abused the trust of his clients and their families by preying on their undocumented status and their unfamiliarity with the American legal system.

Telling Richardson that she has “a lot of concerns” about his “manipulation of the [judicial] system” and that his conduct was an “attack on the integrity of the judicial system,”  Judge Alvarez’s made the following specific findings which were considered in the sentences she handed down - Richardson’s conduct was an abuse of trust which substantially interfered with the administration of justice as well as a extensive and well-planned and executed fraud which duped vulnerable victims interfering with their “right to be legitimately represented.”.  
 
In custody without bond since the return of the guilty verdicts in October 2010, Richardson will remain in custody pending the designation of and transfer to a Bureau of Prisons facility where he will serve his sentence.

The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by the FBI with the assistance of the Department of Homeland Security. Assistant United States Attorney Diana Song prosecuted the case.

 

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