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New York Man Accused of Posing as Lawyer, Scamming Federal Inmates and Families with Fake Legal Services

NY Man Indicted for Promising Unauthorized Legal Aid to Federal Inmates
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Christopher Reese allegedly tricked people into paying him for legal services he wasn’t authorized to provide, officials said.

Jul. 1 2024, Published 10:03 a.m. ET

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A New York man has been indicted for allegedly tricking federal inmates and their families into paying him to provide legal services he wasn't authorized to provide because he isn't a lawyer, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York announced.

According to the indictment, Christopher Reese, a.k.a. Christopher Eugene Thomas, 56, allegedly promised inmates and their families that he could secure favorable results in criminal cases, and render legal services he was not authorized to provide, in exchange for "hefty fees."

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Reese allegedly styled himself as a legal assistant or paralegal, but was not working under the supervision of a licensed attorney.

He offered service that only licensed attorneys are authorized to provide, including drafting and submitting legal filings in federal courts.

He allegedly induced victims to pay him thousands of dollars per legal filing, by promising he could get defendants "immediately released" based on motions he could file.

He also allegedly offered a "money-back guarantee" for his services, but when they inevitably failed, he would refuse to return the money.

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Reese allegedly engaged in the unauthorized practice of law when he filed legal motions and briefs in federal cases, including cases before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit at 40 Foley Square in Manhattan, which is a federal enclave where the state's prohibition on the unauthorized practice of law applies via the Assimilative Crimes Act.

"Christopher Reese sought to profit off the hopes and anxieties of criminal defendants and their families while abusing federal courts for his own financial gain," U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement. "Reese allegedly tricked people into paying him for legal services he wasn’t authorized to provide, and after promising he could get inmates out of prison time and time again, the only thing Reese achieved was taking money for himself. It’s time for Reese’s alleged fraud on defendants, their families, and the courts to end.”

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During the course of the alleged scheme, in which he was paid "many thousands of dollars," Reese was already on supervised release in connection with a separate federal criminal case. In order to avoid paying criminal restitution that he owed, Reese allegedly made false statements about his finances to the U.S. Probation Office.

Reese was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; one count of unauthorized practice of law in a federal enclave, which carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison; one count of making false statements to the U.S. Probation Office, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

TMX contributed to this report.

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