Lawyer accuses fraud suspects of conning him

| 27/01/2015 | 4 Comments

(CNS): A local defence attorney who was called to the police station to represent two Romanian nationals from a group of four suspects accused of skimming local banks with cloned credit cards has accused the defendants of conning him. Steve McField told the Grand Court Friday that the couple have refused to pay his fees and jumped to another lawyer. He said he was out of pocket as a result of representing Florin Roata & Mariana Oprinoiu since their arrest around 18 December, despite repeated promises to pay him.

Cayman News Service

Steve McField

McField said he had spent two full days at the police station on their behalf, made several visits to Northward and six court appearances, which he said they have refused to pay for after constant assurances that the money was not a problem.

But, McField said, after consulting with a prison officer at HMP Northward they had declared their desire to change attorneys from McField’s practice to Stenning and Associates ahead of their appearance in court Friday. McField said that the prison officer had apparently advised the pair that McField was “sinking their case” but that they could change lawyers and as a result had contacted Stennings.

The veteran local attorney was clearly angry as he detailed what he had been told and revealed to the open court that the defendants had told him they could get money wired from someone in their native Romania. Roata had also told McField that if he “got them off the charges” he would be given a further five thousand dollar bonus.

McField said there was no contract of written fee agreement in place and he had been called to the police station by officials to represent two of the four Romanian and Hungarian nationals who were arrested in connection with conning some $115,000 from local banks using cloned fraudulent cards. He said he found himself in a real dilemma and this was the first time it had happened to him.

“It is quite unethical for them to run to another attorney without any assurance that my fees will be paid,” the attorney told the court.

The judge pointed out that McField would have to issue civil proceedings as he had no jurisdiction in connection with the complaint. The attorney acknowledged that this was his only option but was certain he would “not get paid by them”.

He said he had spent a considerable amount of time on their behalf and now he would walk away with nothing. He said he had been called to represent them by the police and he believes the new system meant that defence attorneys should have access to legal aid for this type of work. However, he queried how that would work since the defendant has to make the application.

Since a ruling by Justice Alex Henderson making it clear that all suspects must be provided with free legal advice when arrested and during police interviews, defence attorneys are being called on to help but how they are to be paid for this work in the absence of a former public defenders system has not been ironed out.

During Friday’s court hearing as Oprinoiu wept throughout and an interpreter tried desperately to translate the proceedings, McField also revealed he had made a formal complaint about the prison officer who appeared to have been offering Roata the legal advice and the director had confirmed an enquiry was underway. He said it was a very “unsatisfactory situation” to have prison officers giving legal advice. The judge noted that it was a very serious allegation and the prison must investigate the circumstances.

Amelia Fosuhene, who was coming on record for Roata and Oprinoiu, said she had assisted the defendants to apply for legal aid as it appeared they do not have funds to pay. But she said she could not get involved in the dispute as she requested a new set of documents from the crown.

Meanwhile, Laurence Aiolfi from Samson & McGrath, who is representing the two other suspected fraudsters, Roland Pop and Ianaca Vismos, requested an adjournment for two weeks, not least because of the problems finding and funding Romanian interpreters that can assist in conference.

The case was adjourned until 6 February, though Fosuhene said she planned to make a bail application on behalf of Oprinoiu, who is currently remanded at the women’s prison in Fairbanks. The three men were all remanded to Northward until their next appearance.

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Category: Courts, Crime

Comments (4)

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  1. TinyBriefs says:

    I cannot see why the Court allowed him to go into details about this at all or why he thought it was appropriate.

  2. SSM345 says:

    Steve, did you use “good ole Caymanian common sense from the sacred vessel” to determine that they were in fact legit individuals who could pay your fee’s when you decided to take on their case in the first place? Or was it the promise of a $5K bonus that clouded your judgment?

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