Many times people take what others tell them they are at face value — especially when consulting those in legal and professional fields, where they least expect to encounter fraud and deception. But one case in New Jersey highlights just how important it is to do some research before hiring a lawyer.
Prosecutors say that at least two victims were deceived by 29-year-old Anastasya Varvaryuk of Elmwood Park as she claimed to be a divorce attorney, according to the NYC/New Jersey ABC 7 news.
Although Varvaryuk didn’t steal exorbitant amounts of money from the couples she worked with, she did leave them with one big problem: namely, that they’re still married. Varvaryuk allegedly sold fraudulent divorce judgements to her clients as well as forged a superior court judge’s signature on them in an attempt to pass them off as real.
Now the people who were already trying to get through the difficult process of a divorce must go through the entire ordeal again, but this time hopefully they find a legitimate lawyer to help them. Varvaryuk is not a lawyer and actually worked at Empire Multi Services.
Confidence and the power of persuasion can be powerful things, and it appears that’s all it may have taken for the unhappy couples to fall for Varvaryuk’s scheme. Replying to an online posting of her services on AngiesList.com, she answered, “Yes, I am appropriately licensed for my trade,” to a question about licensing on the listing, according to the New Jersey radio station site NJ1015.com. Apparently, that’s all at least two people needed to hear.
“It’s obviously extremely rare for someone to pass themselves off as a lawyer, but there are many pitfalls to trying to handle a difficult legal situation like a divorce on your own,” says Kenneth J. Phillips, the Law Office of Kenneth J. Phillips.“I have had many clients come to me where their spouse had an attorney and they did not, and as the country and western song says,”they got the shaft.” Unfortunately, divorces are only partly a matter of legalities; most of what I have to deal with are the personalities of my client and the spouse, and those personalities are at their worst during a divorce, especially when there are children involved. If you’re even thinking about getting a divorce, go to a lawyer to discuss your situation and your options. It will be time well spent.”
According to Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes, practicing law without a license and forgery are third-degree crimes that can carry three to five years each serving time in State Prison as punishment. Authorities continue to investigate the case and are trying to determine if there are more victims who may be unknowingly still married.