Man Charged with Impersonating an Attorney in Fraudulent Scheme

SAN FRANCISCO—A federal grand jury in San Francisco indicted Michael Anthony Nelson yesterday on charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, computer fraud, and aggravated identity theft, United States Attorney Joseph P. Russoniello announced. The indictment charges Nelson with carrying out a fraudulent scheme in which he impersonated a licensed attorney who is also named Michael Nelson.

According to the indictment, Michael Anthony Nelson, 39, of Orlando, Fla., is alleged to have created a fraudulent law firm, “Nelson & Associates,” with offices in Atlanta and Los Angeles. The defendant, who was not an attorney, gave himself the title of managing partner and hired office personnel and attorneys to work for him.

The indictment alleges that the defendant impersonated a legitimate attorney with a similar name and changed the State Bar of California’s online attorney profile (maintained on computer servers in San Francisco) for that attorney, Michael S. Nelson, to match an address under defendant Nelson’s control. Defendant Nelson made false representations to obtain documents from the State Bar, including a bar card, which he then used to reinforce the impersonation.

According to the indictment, defendant Nelson attracted clients by responding to Craigslist postings and registering with an online legal matching service. By representing himself as an attorney, he obtained legal fees and other funds from these clients, including at least $35,000 from Bay Area residents.

The investigation began after defendant Nelson was arrested in connection with an indictment and arrest warrant from the Northern District of Illinois.

The maximum statutory penalty for each count of mail or wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. sections 1341 and 1343 is 20 years' imprisonment and a fine of $250,000, plus restitution. The maximum statutory penalty for computer fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. section 1030(a)(4) is five years' imprisonment and a fine of $250,000. The maximum statutory penalty for aggravated identity theft in violation of 18 U.S.C. section 1028A is a mandatory minimum two years' imprisonment, to run consecutively to any other sentence imposed, and a fine of $250,000. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

Michelle J. Kane is the Special Assistant U.S. Attorney who is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Lauri Gomez and Rayneisha Booth. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Atlanta Police Department, and the State Bar of California.

Please note, an indictment contains only allegations against an individual and, as with all defendants, defendant Nelson must be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Further Information:

Case #: CR 10-0244 MHP

A copy of this press release may be found on the U.S. Attorney's Office's website at www.usdoj.gov/usao/can.

Electronic court filings and further procedural and docket information are available at https://ecf.cand.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl.

Judges' calendars with schedules for upcoming court hearings can be viewed on the court's website at www.cand.uscourts.gov.

All press inquiries to the U.S. Attorney's Office should be directed to Jack Gillund at (415) 436-6599 or by e-mail at Jack.Gillund@usdoj.gov.

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