A former paralegal from San Lorenzo pleaded guilty in federal court in Oakland Tuesday to mail fraud and tax evasion charges and admitted to embezzling $327,795 from her employer and his clients, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag announced. Ana Lissa Reyes, 42, entered the plea before U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers and will be sentenced on Oct. 10. Reyes pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of tax evasion, according to U.S. Internal Revenue Service spokeswoman Arlette Lee.
The fraud conviction carries a possible maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, plus restitution, and the tax evasion charge has a maximum of six years in prison, plus restitution. Reyes formerly worked as secretary, office manager and paralegal for a small law firm run by attorney Brian Ching from 1995 until she was fired in June 2011, according to a criminal complaint filed by prosecutors against Reyes last year.
Ching specialized in personal injury, family law and criminal defense and located his office at various times in Alameda, Union City and San Francisco. Haag said Reyes admitted during the guilty plea that between 2006 and 2011, she settled clients’ claims without the knowledge of the law firm or its clients and stole the settlement proceeds.
She also admitted to engaging clients without the firm’s knowledge and stealing clients’ retainer fee payments, Haag said. Haag said Reyes admitted that the total amount she embezzled from the law firm and its clients was $327,795. Reyes also admitted to under-reporting her income for the calendar years 2006 through 2011, Haag said.
Ching was disbarred in 2012 for allowing unauthorized settlements in three personal injury cases and failing to prevent the embezzlement of a total of nearly $50,0000 in those cases and one family law case, according to State Bar records.
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