A trio of Michigan attorneys have been arrested and charged with racketeering and obstruction of justice, among other charges, by allegedly operating a scheme through which they forged documents that were filed in state court seeking to collect on debts that individuals did not owe.
The three lawyers — Marc Fishman, his son, Ryan Fishman, and Alexandra Ichim — all worked for The Fishman Group, which is based in Bloomfield Township, Mich. The firm also reportedly had offices in Florida and Colorado.
Marc Fishman was charged with maintaining a criminal enterprise, more commonly known as racketeering, and obstruction of justice. Ryan Fishman and Ichim were charged with conducting a criminal enterprise, 30 counts of forgery, and one count of obstruction of justice. Racketeering is a felony that is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, while forgery convictions can carry sentences of 14 years in prison, and obstruction of justice carries a sentence of up to five years.
“These people, this firm, took advantage of the most vulnerable people in the state who weren’t familiar with the legal process or may have believed they needed to pay on debts they never owed,” said David Leyton, the Genesee County (Mich.) Prosecutor during a news conference yesterday.
Prosecutors allege that the trio forged paperwork in at least 30 cases that was filed in state courts stating that individuals had been properly served in debt collection lawsuits, but none of the debtors were able to be located. The scheme allowed the attorneys to obtain default judgments, which they then allegedly used to attach garnishments to individuals’ wages and other income.
“We don’t know how big this is, we don’t know how long it’s been, but we do know there are up to a thousand or more victims,” said Chris Swanson, the Genesee County Sheriff during the news conference. “And these people have been paying on debts they didn’t owe, not all of them, but a lot of them. These people would have made it right had they actually been served, but their whole lives have been altered.”