Postal Worker Pleads Guilty to Fraud in Federal Court After “The Price is Right” Appearance

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By Jim Carr – Another case of fraud in injury law, that we lawyers need to discuss. You see, it is not always bad lawyers.  Sometimes we get clients who are untruthful.  Here is a case of alleged fraud to explain what I mean. Former North Carolina postal worker Cathy Wrench Cashwell plead guilty to fraud in federal court, after appearing on the game show The Price is Right.

Cashwell had claimed that she was injured and could not lift mail trays, but in her appearance on the game show she had no difficulty in spinning the wheel.  According to reports the former postal worker had been collecting worker’s compensation payments since 2004, after claiming she was injured on the job. The workers compensation paperwork was filed in September 2011, in which she claimed a left shoulder injury made it impossible for her to sit, stand, kneel, bend, squat, climb, reach or grasp, federal investigators said.

Not one time, but twice in an appearance on The Price is Right, in 2009 Cashwell was able to reach up and spin the “big wheel” the show is famous for in her television show appearance.  In an indictment filed September 2012 state Cashwell raised her left arm above her head in gripping the handle of the big wheel with her left hand.  During the second spin the former postal worker lifted both arms above her head to grip the handle of the wheel with both hands.

It is also alleged that during an August  2010 vacation Cashwell went ziplining.  Cashwell entered a guilty plea in federal court and is scheduled to be sentenced in September. The former postal worker has made no statements about her appearance on the popular television game show or her plea in federal court. Clearly, if these allegations are true, we have problems here with this government employee. The question should be, why are so many people trying to work attorneys to make them inadvertently work the system? No?

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Out-of State Attorneys Can be Held to California State Bar Rules

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By James P. Carr – Here is an article based upon a recent Court of Appeals case in California.  Online advertisers beware of who you target your webpages to.  Especially, in California. So the question is, “Can Out-of State Attorneys Can be Held to California State Bar Rules”  The Answer is as follows: The First District Court of Appeals has ruled that a San Francisco judge was right in his rulling, when he required a law firm that the law firm that was formerly known as Immigration Practice Group PC (IPG), was to notify clients that its founder was no longer able to practice law (See Cal Bar Ethics.)

In 2008 Martin Resendez Guarjado resigned his membership from the State Bar, after he was allegedly involved in a series of incidences including failing to return unearned fees and competently perform legal services. Guarjado, was allegedly permitted to continue representing clients, at IPG authorities said.

According to State Bar Deputy Executive Director, Robert Hawley, the decision issued in December and published as a precedent on January 3, 2013 reinforces the existing law.

Superior Court Judge Peter J. Busch’s ruling was affirmed by Presiding Justice J. Anthony Kline, who dismissed arguments by attorney Christopher Stender. Stender took over Guajardo’s practice argued he was not bound by State Bar rules, since he nor his firm are members of the State Bar.

Section 6167 of the California Business and Professional Code, states “a  law corporation shall not do or fail to do any act the doing of which or the failure to do which would constitute a cause of discipline of any members of the State Bar” Justice Kline said. Kline referenced an opinion by the California Attorney General that law corporations are exempt from registering as tax preparers, just as the individual of the State Bar would be, in a written statement.

The justice said in the written statement the expressed opinion holds in “the present context as well.” He said that it is legal in California for IPG to practice law, and is bound to be compliant with the rules of an individual member of the bar is required to follow.

Guajardo, a once successful San Francisco lawyer received his first reprimand in 1991. The attorney was suspended from practicing law before the Ninth Circuit, due to neglect of clients and continually failing to respond to the court’s order to show cause. He was again disciplined in 1993, 2006 and again in 2007, with this last reprimand resulting in his resignation in 2008.

Stender replaced Guajardo as the president of IPC, secretary and treasurer in April of 2008, according to court documents. Shortly after Stender became the only shareholder in IPG.

Authorities alleged it still appeared Guajardo remained in charge of the practice and continued counseling clients, with legal strategies.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a lawsuit against the firm, Guajardo, and Stender in November 2010. He alleged that IPG and Stender were aiding Guajardo in practicing law illegally, and defrauding illegal immigrants out of thousands of dollars, while providing no legal services with an value. Herrera also alleged that IPG and Stender were misleading clients to believe Guajardo was their attorney, but failed to inform the State Bar they were retaining a lawyer who resigned. Law firms are required to report to the State Bar, when they employ an individual, who has resigned, was disbarred, suspended or otherwise inactive. They must also guarantee the individual will not perform prohibited activities, like giving legal advice and will not be handling client’s money.

In court filings Stender, who is not licensed in California, but is licensed to practice law in New York and Connecticut, stated he had not permitted Guajardo to continue to practice laws, therefore he was not obligated to inform clients of Guajardo’s resignation. He said to do so would have had an irreparable effect on clients cases, and many of the clients would not want to provide any information to agencies that may have the power to prosecute them or that would forward the information to the Department of Homeland Security. This document was filed by Stender in 2011 in San Francisco Superior Court, which was opposing an injunction that required him to provide notice of Guajardo’s status to clients.

He included favorable words about Guajardo, saying he was a “highly experienced longtime immigration attorney” and went on to state that Guajardo had a reputation of being able to help clients. Stender said that it was his intention to learn how Guajardo was so successful in many of his cases, what resources he had and to continue representing his former clients, in his own multiple office network of immigration lawyers.

State Bar adviser Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct, and immediate past chair Wendy L. Patrick said in the capacity of an individual, this is an “illustration of the increasing (well deserved) scrutiny being given to those how hold themselves out to represent the legal interests of the public.” She went on to say, when they have temporarily or permanently been prohibited from practicing law.

Patrick wrote to the Bar Journal, clients have trust in their lawyers and confidence that a professional relationship exists, in telling them personal and sensitive information. She said that there are public cases that discuss the unauthorized practice of law, and there are still cases that arise, and this highlights the importance of the issue and protecting the rights of the public.