N.Y. Paralegal Accused of Practicing Insurance Law Without License

June 7, 2007

A former paralegal at a New York law firm has been indicted on charges of posing as a licensed attorney and stealing more than $284,000 from his employer.

Brian Valery practiced law at Anderson Kill & Olick for about two years in commercial and insurance litigation, eventually earning $155,000 a year before he was found out, Manhattan prosecutors said this week.

Valery, of Massapequa, pleaded not guilty to second-degree grand larceny and practicing law without a license when he was arraigned before Acting Justice Brenda Soloff in state Supreme Court, said Jennifer Kushner, of the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

Valery began working as a paralegal at Anderson Kill & Olick at an annual salary of $21,000 in 1998, Kushner said. That fall, she said, he told his employers he was taking night classes at Fordham University School of Law.

In May 2002, she said, Valery told his managers he had graduated from Fordham, and they promoted him to the legal staff. He later told his employers he had passed the bar exam in July 2003 and was admitted to practice in October 2004, Kushner said.

Valery practiced law at the firm until October 2006, when officers there discovered that he had not attended Fordham’s law school, had never taken the bar exam and was not admitted to practice, Kushner said.

Anderson Kill & Olick fired Valery and reported him to the state attorney general’s office, which contacted the Manhattan district attorney.

Valery’s lawyer, Joseph Conway, said facts he would present in court would mitigate the charges.

The judge set Valery’s bail at $25,000 and gave him until June 13 to post it and ordered him to surrender his passport, Kushner said.

If convicted on the felony grand larceny charge, Valery, 32, would face up to 15 years in prison. He’d face up to a year in jail if convicted on the misdemeanor charge of unlicensed practice of law.

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