Like doctors, prostitutes, and IRS agents, lawyers seem like a recession-proof crowd.
Crime, after all, never sleeps. In fact, during most economic freefalls, lawlessness jumps quicker than a cleaned-out hedge fund manager perched on a 24th-story window ledge. So what to make of the latest laundry list of disciplinary actions the state Supreme Court handed down to 19 South Florida attorneys?
Andrew D. Robinson, a North Miami lawyer, racked up $18,000 in credit card debt and then cooked up a mortgage fraud scheme to help pay it off.
Kesha M. Holmes, who practiced in Hollywood, duped the banks for three different fake mortgages and stole $30,000.
Miami Police officers cuffed Gary Michael Murphree, who owns a downtown firm just off West Flagler Street, for cocaine possession just a few months after the bank foreclosed on his condo at the Yacht Club.
The real common thread isn't the looming recession; it's the tanking real estate industry in Florida, says Ken Marvin, top cop in the Florida Bar Association's disciplinary office. "We have seen a definite increase in shenanigans related to mortgage fraud," he says. "Miami is probably the hottest spot in the whole country for mortgage fraud, and lawyers are a part of that."
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But that's not to say lawyers won't feel the pinch as the economy sinks. Bankruptcy and foreclosure specialists might be raking it in, but most other barristers will find less business as their clients go under, Marvin says.
Some will inevitably decide to rip people off rather than wait in the soup line.
"Don't forget, the downturn has really only happened in the last month. It takes time to root out these kinds of financial crimes," he says. "Talk to me again in six months."