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Conviction Affirmed for Former Prisoner Who Posed as Lawyer

by Brandon Sample

Howard O. Kieffer “is not an attorney, never obtained a college degree and has never attended law school or passed a bar exam,” wrote the Chief Judge of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, in affirming Kieffer’s conviction and sentence for fraudulently representing defendants in federal court.

Kieffer’s scam started in the mid-1990s after he was released from federal prison for tax fraud. He formed a business called Federal Defense Associates (FDA). As the executive director of FDA, Kieffer touted himself as an expert in federal prison matters and sentencing issues. [See: PLN, Jan. 2009, p.44].

Through FDA, various websites and other means, Kieffer obtained over $150,000 in legal fees from unsuspecting clients that Kieffer “represented” in federal court, posing as an attorney.

Kieffer would go to legal conferences that only judges and attorneys would attend, passing himself off as a lawyer. Using attorneys he met at those conferences to vouch for his credibility, Kieffer fraudulently obtained admission to the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, the District of North Dakota, the District of Colorado and the Western District of Missouri. He also fraudulently gained admission to the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Fourth, Eighth and Ninth Circuits. At the time there was no oversight over the admissions process, which “was based on trust.”

Kieffer’s fraudulent court admissions allowed him to continue his legal representation scheme until 2008, when a dissatisfied former client contacted the District of North Dakota’s court clerk, questioning Kieffer’s credentials.

After an investigation by the clerk and the issuance of a show cause order by the Chief Judge of the District of North Dakota, Kieffer admitted he did not have a law degree and was not a member of any state bar. Kieffer had falsely claimed that he went to the now-defunct Antioch Law School in Washington, D.C. His carefully-constructed persona as an attorney came crashing down.

Kieffer had represented 16 defendants in cases ranging from a murder-for-hire prosecution to a habeas proceeding in which Kieffer – quite ironically – alleged that the defendant had received ineffective assistance of counsel from Albert Garcia, a Minnesota lawyer who has since been disbarred and is serving time in federal prison for drug offenses.

After being charged in North Dakota with mail fraud and making false statements, Kieffer was convicted following a jury trial and sentenced to 51 months in prison and ordered to pay over $152,000 in restitution. [See: PLN, Sept. 2009, p.15].

The Eighth Circuit ruling affirmed his North Dakota conviction and prison sentence. In August 2010, Kieffer received an additional 57-month sentence in Colorado on similar charges, plus 37 months for contempt of court, to run concurrent with each other but consecutive to his North Dakota sentence.

“The root of your scheme and your conduct has been pure deception,” U.S. District Court Judge Christine Arguello stated when sentencing Kieffer in the Colorado case. “You have shown a profound disrespect for the court system.”

Kieffer faces more charges in other states where he fraudulently misrepresented himself as an attorney. See: United States v. Kieffer, 621 F.3d 825 (8th Cir. 2010); United States v. Kieffer, U.S.D.C. (D. Col.), Case No. 1:09-cr-00410.

Additional source: Associated Press

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Related legal cases

United States v. Kieffer

United States v. Kieffer