Following hundreds of complaints filed by New Yorkers, many of whom are immigrants, defrauded by scam artists posing as attorneys, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced new legislation that makes the unlicensed practice of law a class E felony.
"We have no tolerance for scam artists who pose as lawyers and deceive New Yorkers in need of legal help," Governor Cuomo said in a statement after signing the bill into law on Wednesday. "This new law will help hold accountable individuals who defraud New Yorkers by offering services they are not licensed to provide accountably. I thank the bill sponsors for their efforts on this important legislation."
Offender who present themselves as lawyers and whose actions result in a monetary loss of $1,000 or more face up to four years in prison, up from a penalty of one year under the current structure of the law.
The law, which will take effect Nov. 1, 2013, bumps the crime up from a misdemeanor to a felony, making it more in line with other existing laws preventing unlicensed practice of a trade in the state, including the fields of architecture, accounting, dentistry and nursing among many others. The bill was developed in part based on recommendations by the New York State Bar Association earlier this year.
"Someone who hires an attorney is paying and entrusting that attorney to carry out some of their most important personal and financial wishes, such as buying or selling their home or creating a will. Scam artists who pose as licensed attorneys and jeopardize these important matters should face tougher penalties,” Senator Charles Schumer said in support of the new legislation.
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