|For Immediate Release
July 19, 2006
Public Affairs Counsel
(714) 347-8408 Office
(714) 323-4486 Cell
MAN CHARGED WITH PRETENDING TO BE AN ATTORNEY
*Mexican nationals and non-English speakers paid him to be their lawyer
SANTA ANA – A Diamond Bar man has been charged for pretending to be a lawyer and defrauding clients by taking money for services he could not perform. Joseph Robert Lopez, 68, is charged with three counts of grand theft, three counts of theft with a prior conviction, and three counts of the unauthorized practice of law. Bail is set at $50,000. If convicted, Lopez faces up to 5 years and 4 months in prison.
Lopez is accused of falsely representing himself as an attorney and illegally practicing law from February to May of 2005. He is accused of altering a paralegal degree to look like a Juris Doctorate (JD), or law degree, and displaying it in his Santa Ana office to give people the impression that he was an attorney. Lopez is accused of promising legal services to people who thought he was a lawyer and spoke limited English, most of them being Mexican nationals or Spanish speakers.
In the early 1990s Lopez was convicted of theft in Los Angeles County and served time in prison. During his time in prison he got his paralegal degree through a correspondence course through the Blackstone School of Law in Dallas. After he was released he opened a store in Santa Ana and began illegally practicing law and falsely representing himself as a lawyer. In 2001 he was sent to prison for five years for a grand theft conviction.
In order to hold oneself out as an attorney and practice law, one must pass the Bar examination and be accepted based on moral character by the State Bar.
Deputy District Attorney Steve Mitchell of the Felony Projects Unit is prosecuting this case.