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Phony Immigration Attorney Gets 15 Years

LAREDO, Texas - A 28-year-old Dallas man was sentenced to nearly 16 years in federal prison for falsely representing himself as an immigration lawyer in Federal Court. Dale Richardson's 190-month sentence came after a jury found him guilty in October 2010 of obstructing justice by twice appearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge J. Scott Hacker and making false statements in a pro hac vice motion he filed seeking permission to represent someone charged with illegally entering the United States.

Richardson also was fined $3,000 and ordered to pay $25,114 in restitution for fees he took from clients.

An FBI investigation triggered by Richardson's pro hac vice filing discovered his phony credentials, prosecutors said. In his motion Richardson claimed he was a member of the Massachusetts Bar, and also claimed to be licensed 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,'" prosecutors said in a statement.

The FBI found Richardson advertised himself as an attorney on business cards and the Internet. He claimed to have a law office in the Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch.

But "the FBI's investigation further found that despite his representations, Richardson was not licensed in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts," prosecutors said. "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."

At his sentencing hearing the government introduced evidence about the scope of Richardson's 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," the U.S. Attorney's Office said in the statement. "Richardson, who claimed to specialize 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."

Evidence showed that while Richardson was out on bond pending his October 2010 trial he "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," prosecutors said.

The city Farmers Branch achieved notoriety by its repeated, unconstitutional attempts to criminally prosecute landlords who rented to people without checking their immigration status.

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