(CN) – The 7th Circuit upheld the bankruptcy fraud conviction of a Chicago lawyer who billed clients but never represented them.
In September 2005, Thomas O’Connell Holstein acknowledged professional misconduct and agreed to an 18-month suspension of his law license.
Despite the impending suspension, he continued to take on clients and collect legal fees, the ruling states.
Clients were asked to come to the office to fill out forms and pay Lawline, Holstein’s firm. But Holstein rarely saw the clients, leaving his paralegal, Lisa Vega, to handle the transactions, according to the ruling.
Holstein’s name was not included on the bankruptcy petitions, making it appear as though the individuals had no attorney.
Holstein did not appear at creditors’ meetings to represent clients.
He claimed that while he was at his summer home, Vega had perpetrated the scheme in order to keep her job and to retaliate against him for a failed romance.
He was nonetheless convicted on nine counts of bankruptcy fraud and making false statements in a bankruptcy proceeding, and sentenced to nine years in prison.
He appealed, claiming the evidence against him was insufficient to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The federal appeals court in Chicago disagreed, upholding his conviction.
“With no evidence in the record to cast doubt on the district court’s findings, Holstein’s appeal boils down to challenging the judge determinations as to the credibility of the witnesses,” Circuit Judge William Bauer wrote. “Such a tactic is ‘doomed at the outset.'”