Pennsylvania woman Kimberly Kitchen, 45, has been convicted of using forged documents to pose as an estate lawyer for more than 10 years even though she did not have a license, a judge said Thursday. Prosecutors say Kitchen fooled BMZ Law by forging her bar exam results, law license and an email stating that she studied at the Duquesne University Law School. Kitchen also forged a check for a state attorney registration fee. As The Daily Mail reports, Kitchen is charged with unauthorized practice of law, felony records tampering and forgery.
A resident in James Creek, Kitchen handled estate planning for more than 30 clients despite not having set foot in a law school and even served as president of the county bar association. She was made a partner at her law firm when the massive case of fraud was discovered. BMZ Law is a law firm based in Huntington, 110 miles east of Pittsburgh.
The judge who handled the Kimberly Kitchen case was brought in from another county. In addition, it was a state attorney general who was on the case and not county prosecutors because Kitchen had been an evergreen fixture in the county courthouse for many years. BMZ officials who testified at her two-day trial through a spokesperson said, “Sadly it would appear that our firm was the last, in a long line of professionals, to have been deceived by Ms. Kitchen into believing she was licensed to practice law. We are undertaking a thorough review of each and every file she may have handled.”
Defense attorney Caroline Roberto said Friday that she is looking to appeal the charge. The judge did not immediately schedule sentencing, as caseworkers are given a maximum 90 days to file a presentence report.
“We think that she had no intent to defraud. There is no evidence that her work is bad. She provided a good service,” Roberto said. She added “She’s an incredibly competent person and she worked very diligently and was devoted to the people she served. There are things about the charges we don’t agree with.”
The Huntington County Bar Association president Christopher Wencker said given the level of betrayal that had spanned over a decade, the charges against Kitchen were insufficient. Kitchen worked in fundraising at Juniata College before she told people that she was an attorney, according to prosecutors. She has not practiced ever since her law firm stopped her in December 2014.
It is not the first time that a person would be practicing without a license. Shawn Michelle Gunter, using identity theft, posed as a physician’s assistant where she went on to diagnose and treat 200 infants and children. She wrote more than 400 prescriptions without a medical license, according to the Department of Justice. According to her plea agreement, Gunter was a surgical assistant in Maryland. She lost her job when she cashed a $14,000 check forging a doctor’s signature. She was fired. When she found out that a pediatrician with offices in Chestertown and Centreville Maryland were looking for a physician’s assistant, she lied that she had graduated from Howard University, faxing a fake resume to the doctor. When asked for her documentation, Gunter forged a physician’s assistant certificate with the license number of the actual physical assistant and a distorted copy of the same individual’s DEA controlled substance registration certificate. Gunter was seeing pediatric patients without direct supervision including ADHD follow –ups, newborn visits and routine physicals. Her unlicensed and unqualified medical care led to the submission of 100s of false claims in Medicaid coverage.
[Image via Shutterstock/sebra]