We associate long prison sentences with crimes of violence but white collar crimes committed by people from professional backgrounds can also carry stiff sentences.
Recently, a disbarred attorney from Arlington, Texas was sentenced to 20 years in prison for continuing to represent herself as an attorney almost a decade after she lost her license.
The Dallas Morning News reported on how Tiffany Lynn Lewis lost her license in 2005 and was reported to be already on probation for pocketing a client’s $78,000 settlement when she again ran into trouble with the law. Her latest punishment was a far cry from the days when she practiced as an attorney and as a municipal judge in Dallas.
Last week a jury sentenced Lewis to 10 years while Judge Robb Catalano added on another decade, giving her the maximum sentence, the Dallas Morning News reported. Lewis must serve a fourth of the initial 10-year term before she can be paroled before beginning the next decade behind bars.
The State Bar of Texas stripped Lewis of her law license in 2005 because she had spent money that had been awarded to one of her clients in a 2003 probate case.
During the punishment phase of the trial, prosecutors told the jury that Lewis deceived landlords, clients and even judges in the nine years since losing her license. The Dallas Morning News reported she had admitted to forging documents and assuming the identity of her mother to lease a house in Dallas County.
One client who paid for help in 2013 to dispute a home foreclosure said the former attorney had a business card that identified her as an “Attorney at Law” and it even contained the address of a nonexistence law office.
“She was running an illegitimate law business,” Prosecutor Lori Burks told the court. He accused Lewis of being a “dishonest person.”
“You can’t make character when there is none. You can’t create morals when there are none,” he is reported to have said.
The case prompted a change in Dallas’ charter that is known by many as the “Tiffany Lewis Clause.” She was suspended from the municipal bench in 2005 after refusing to resign her position when she was stripped of her license, the Dallas Morning News reported.
There is a perception that white collar criminals have a more lenient time before the courts. In reality many white collar criminals are dealt with at a federal level and these crimes can lead to multi-count indictments. Prosecutors are now using federal sentencing guidelines to put more non-violent offenders behind bars for longer period of time. If you have been accused of one of these complicated crimes, you should hire a Texas criminal defense attorney with a long track record of representing those accused of white collar crimes.