Money for Nothing
As much as we attorneys don’t like to acknowledge it, let’s face it: Some of us are crooked. Perhaps none are more crooked than Thomas Frey of Edison, NJ.
Frey had attempted to collect legal fees from various individuals, including two police officers, to handle an IRS investigation. What Frey didn’t tell them, however, was that he fabricated the entire matter. Last week, a federal grand jury indicted Mr. Frey with multiple charges. He’s now facing up to 140 years in prison if convicted on all counts. The Department of Justice press release is here, and the indictment is here.
Frey’s co-conspirator communicated to the victims that IRS agents approached him at a property owned by one of the victims as part of a criminal investigation. To corroborate the story, Frey showed to the victims business cards of the IRS agents, claiming he received them during the questioning. According to the indictment, Frey had obtained these cards while representing another client in an unrelated tax matter many years prior.
Frey set up the plot, and sought to score. He told the victims (again, who were police officers) that if they each paid him $10,000, he could utilize a “special relationship” with one of the IRS agents in order to have the criminal investigation converted to a mere desk audit. Frey also represented that a family member of his is an IRS employee who would enable Frey to obtain a more favorable outcome. Under the direction of law enforcement, one of the victims provided to Frey the $10,000 in a tape recorded meeting.
Frey’s alleged conduct is unethical on so many levels. First, fabricating a story to obtain funds for legal services is obviously grounds for immediate and permanent disbarment. Second, if the story were true, he’d be conspiring with a government employee to reach a more favorable outcome for his clients.
When I read a story like Mr. Frey’s, I find myself dumbfounded. Mr. Frey dedicated at least three years of his life to obtain a legal education, and earned the right to practice law after passing the New Jersey bar exam. He’d been practicing law since 1989.
Why risk throwing away all of the hard work for roughly fifty grand? There had to be another way out of whatever mess Mr. Frey got himself involved in. Whatever valuable experience and sound judgment Mr. Frey had accumulated over the years, if any, it certainly wasn’t on display here.
To my attorney readers, please don’t try this at home. To those who seek to hire an attorney, be careful whom you choose.