Most people wouldn’t resort to a felony to keep up with their workload – but a New York City paralegal did just that, according to a New York District Attorney report.
The Paralegal was 42-year-old Thomas Rubino, who told investigators that over the years the work began to pile up. Needy clients and demanding bosses motivated him to forge the signatures of New York Supreme Court judges on hundreds of structured settlement transfer forms rather than process them properly, he told investigators.
This prompted two annuity purchasing companies to call in their legal teams when they suddenly found out that hundreds of transfers hadn’t actually been through a judge as required by law. Upon his arrest last month, Rubino told investigators he understood what he did was wrong.
“I made the forged orders when I felt overwhelmed with work. I was motivated out of fear that the work wouldn’t get done,” he said in an investigation detailed by the New York Post.
It wasn’t a high-tech operation. Rubino said he’d use scissors to snip previous examples of signatures before pasting them on documents. He’d then make copy so the documents looked authentic. In total Rubino is accused of forging the signatures of 76 different judges.
Hundreds of Documents Prove Fake
Rubino began his role as a paralegal for Paris & Chaikin in 2010. During that time, the law firm represented companies purchasing structured settlement payments from clients who wanted to cash out their settlements for a lump sum.
New York law requires that a judge sign off on the transfer of payments, but instead of going through the mandated process, Rubino is accused of making it only look like the firm went through the proper channels.
But in late 2013 it all began to unravel.
A judge came across a document he had no memory of signing and wrote a letter to Rubino questioning the legitimacy of his signature.
“Fearing detection, the defendant told the law firm that he had a family emergency and needed to leave immediately,” said a statement from the Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance’s office. “He never returned.”
After two rounds of interviews, Rubino was arrested.
“The structured settlement process is regulated in New York for a very important reason – to protect the best interests of the individuals receiving settlements,” said Vance. “When Thomas Rubino allegedly forged signatures on 117 judicial orders, he caused financial harm to the companies that relied on the legitimacy of the process, deprived the individuals of their right to protection, and undermined the authority of State Supreme Court Justices.”
Several Companies Took a Hit
It’s not just criminal cases coming out of this: Two companies have already filed civil cases against the law firm that employed Rubino.
Rubino was in charge of Paris & Chaikin’s structured settlement purchases from December 2010 until late 2013. Structured settlement companies emailed in transactions that needed approval, and it was his role to draft and file the required court documents, according to New York state officials.
One of the companies relying on the process handled by Rubino was J.G. Wentworth. The company, in turn, has slapped Paris & Chaikin with a $1 million civil suit. The suit claims the forgeries negatively affected 27 Wentworth settlement purchases.
Once it discovered that the forms were faked, the company had to go through the selling process all over again — this time with a real judge. In several cases, the judge’s decision ate into the company’s profits by requiring it to provide clients more money in exchange for structured settlement payments.
One of these lawsuits was filed even before Rubino’s indictment and Wentworth’s subsequent case.
Two months before New York state officials filed charges against Rubino, another structured settlement buying company filed a lawsuit against Paris & Chaikin. Stone Street Capital said in a legal malpractice suit that in October 2013 Paris & Chaikin told Stone Street about at least one forged document that passed through Rubino.
Paris & Chaikin’s legal counsel Pery Krinsky said he’s confident that the firm acted ethically in handling Rubino’s actions.
“Paris & Chaikin immediately self-reported Rubino’s then-known fraud, and upon discovering other acts of misconduct, the firm has continued reporting Rubino’s fraud to various New York courts and law enforcement,” said Krinsky. “We are confident that Paris & Chaikin’s cooperation with law enforcement including the district attorney’s office will result in Rubino being brought to justice.”
At his arraignment in Manhattan Supreme Court, Rubino pleaded not guilty on the 117 counts of Forgery in the Second Degree.
Currently the two civil cases are still pending.