East Bay Paralegal Caught Stealing From Law Firm (18 USC, Chapter 63)

San Lorenzo’s 42-year-old Ana Reyes is not an attorney.  She has never attended law school and never passed the Bar in any state of the union.  Reyes did, however, work for an attorney in with law offices in both Union City and Alameda– Brian Ching.   For 15 years, she managed the office, acted in a secretarial capacity, and did paralegal work. By all accounts, everyone in the office trusted her.

Yet, Reyes managed to steal approximately $327,000 from her employer. How did she manage this?  First, Reyes pretended to be a lawyer, handling clients that Ching never knew about and keeping the legal fees for herself.  Second, and perhaps worse, Reyes would get in touch with defendants who were being sued by Ching’s firm, pretend to represent the law firm as a settlement negotiator, and then keep the supposed “settlement” money.  She continued to take advantage of clients from the firm even after having been fired in 2011.  Ching has been disbarred for failing to keep a close enough watch over his employees and allowing the abuse of clients to take place.  Reyes has admitted to charges of mail fraud (18 USC, Chapter 63 – purposefully relieving someone of their money for a fraudulent enterprise via the postal service) and evasion of income taxes and will be sentenced in the coming weeks. Because mail fraud, while a “white collar” crime, is a federal offense, Reyes may be looking at a hefty fine and up to 20 years in federal prison.