Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the recent Indictment of a New York paralegal for allegedly creating more than 100 false structured settlement orders and forging the signatures of 76 supreme court judges. The case is State of New York v. Thomas Rubino and the 234 count Indictment is here: https://nylawyer.nylj.com/adgifs/decisions15/091715indictment.pdf
According to the Indictment, Thomas Rubino was a paralegal at a personal injury firm and he allegedly forged the signatures of 76 state Supreme Court justices to create more than 100 false judicial orders in structured settlement matters. Rubino has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
A September 16, 2015 press release by New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. states:
According to the indictment and documents filed in court, from July 2010 to October 2013, RUBINO was employed as a paralegal for Paris & Chaikin a law firm located on West 34th Street in Manhattan. Paris & Chaikin represents structured settlement companies in the purchasing of structured settlement rights – money owed to an individual from an insurance claim settlement, such as a personal injury matter, generally paid in installments over the course of several years. Structured settlement companies purchase an individual’s settlement rights in return for a lump sum payment. This practice is regulated in New York State and each transaction requires the approval of a Justice of the New York State Supreme Court to ensure that each transfer is in the best interest of the individual.
Beginning in December 2010, RUBINO served as the law firm’s primary employee handling structured settlement acquisitions. In this role, the clients would email him directly with a transaction that required approval. RUBINO was supposed to draft the required court documents and file them in the court in the appropriate county in New York State.
Between approximately late June 2011 and October 2013, RUBINO forged the signature of 76 justices on 117 documents that purported to be judicial orders approving the transfer of structured settlements. The defendant used a pair of scissors to cut a judge’s signature from a legitimate document, and then taped that signature onto the fake order that he created. After RUBINO transmitted the forged judicial orders to the clients, the clients released the funds to the individuals and sold the annuities to third parties.
In late 2013, the legitimacy of at least two transfers processed by RUBINO was called into question. Fearing detection, the defendant told the law firm that he had a family emergency and needed to leave immediately. He never returned.
According to the Indictment and court documents, Rubino met with prosecutors four times and “fully confessed to these crimes.” A voluntary disclosure form filed in the case has four statements allegedly made by Rubino to the prosecutors, including “I couldn’t keep up with the work, and I felt like I couldn’t leave so I created the forged orders.”
Rubino also said that he received a letter from a judge asking the firm to appear because the local clerk’s office could not locate an order; however, he hid the letter in his desk and did not tell anyone. He said “I knew I had been caught” and he left the firm soon after that. The firm’s partners apparently did not know about his alleged misconduct.
According to the District Attorney’s statement, “the structured settlement process is regulated in New York for a very important reason—to protect the best interests of the individuals receiving settlements.” “(Rubino) caused financial harm to the companies that relied on the legitimacy of the process, deprived the individuals of their right to protection, and undermined the authority of State Supreme Court justices.”
Bottom line: This is a very scary example of a paralegal apparently gone extremely wild. If the partners and other lawyers did not know what was going on, there may be a serious issue of lack of supervision.
Be careful out there.
Disclaimer: this e-mail is not an advertisement, does not contain any legal advice, and does not create an attorney/client relationship and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.
Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.
2454 McMullen Booth Road, Suite 431
Clearwater, Florida 33759
Office (727) 799-1688
Fax (727) 799-1670