FORT WORTH (CN) - A disbarred Texas attorney on probation for stealing a client's probate settlement has been sentenced to a staggering 20 years in prison for continuing to practice law.
A Tarrant County jury on Friday convicted Tiffany Lynn Lewis of falsely holding herself out as a lawyer. The jury sentenced her to 10 years in state prison, then state Judge Robb Catalano revoked her probation and stacked another 10 years onto her sentence.
Lewis will be eligible for parole after 2½ years. If paroled, she will then begin serving the second sentence.
Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney Lori Burks said Lewis' "problem is that she is a dishonest person."
"She was running an illegitimate law business," Burks said in a statement Friday. "You can't make character when there is none. You can't create morals when there are none."
At trial, one of Lewis' clients who sought help for a wrongful foreclosure case testified that Lewis told her she was an attorney and set up a meeting at Lewis' "associate's office" in Colleyville.
The woman testified that Lewis told her she would seek damages and "could take care of everything." The woman wrote a check for "Tiffany Lewis, Attorney at Law" that Lewis later cashed.
"The following month, the woman - who had grown frustrated because there had been no movement on her case - drove to the address on the business card Lewis had given her," the Tarrant County District Attorney's office said in a statement. "She quickly discovered that it was a phony address, that there was no office there. Later, the woman researched Lewis and learned she had been disbarred."
Prosecutors argued during the punishment phase of the trial that Lewis ripped off several people, including clients, landlords and judges.
They said that after Lewis pleaded guilty in 2009 to pocketing the $78,000 probate settlement, she assumed her mother's identity to lease a house while on probation.
"She also filed bankruptcy under her mother's name and claimed under oath during an eviction proceeding that she was Julie Lewis Russell," prosecutors said. "In recent years, she accepted payment from at least three people who needed help with foreclosure issues. They also presented evidence that she forges documents and has submitted false applications to become a notary and obtain an insurance license."
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