He must have felt entitled

What do sentencing guidelines say about chutzpah?

A Baltimore man convicted of Social Security fraud in federal court this week not only was fraudulently collecting disability benefits, but he also did it while he worked for the Social Security Administration.

Christopher George Perry, 50, was found guilty by a jury in U.S. District Court in Baltimore of Social Security disability fraud, federal health benefit program fraud and health care fraud.

Perry began receiving Social Security long-term disability payments in 1996, according to evidence during the four-day trial, but he went back to work during that year while continuing to draw payments. Two years later, Perry added Medicare benefits under his disability and then, in 2007, he got a low-income prescription subsidy via Medicare.

However, Perry was working various jobs and attending college during this time. In 2007, he got a job with the Social Security Administration as a benefits authorizer. His work assignment? Long-term disability cases. He would certainly seem to have some expertise in that area.

At trial, Perry was said to have collected more than $150,000 he wasn’t entitled to. Sentencing is in January.

And this kind of double-dipping is far worse than anything George Constanza ever did.

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Judge knows his Ravens’ history… for the most part

U.S. District Court Senior Judge Marvin J. Garbis gave no indication whether he would allow Ravens’ “Flying B” logo designer Frederick E. Bouchat to add the makers of the Madden NFL 11 video game to his copyright infringement suit against the team and the NFL in a hearing Tuesday.

But Garbis, a lifelong Baltimorean and football fan, did display solid knowledge of Ravens’ history, except for one minor slip-up.

The hearing also focused on the use of Bouchat’s logo in Ravens’ highlights films from 1996-1998 and whether the NFL can continue to sell the films without compensating Bouchat.

Garbis, born in Baltimore in 1936 and a graduate of Johns Hopkins according to his bio, pointed out that the focus of the films ”is not to show the logo. It’s to show Ray Lewis.”

Touchdown for Garbis on that one. Lewis was one of the original Ravens after the team took him and Jonathan Ogden in the first round of the 1996 NFL Draft (pretty savvy selecting by the front office). Lewis led the team in tackles as a rookie in 1996 and made the Pro Bowl in 1997 and 1998, so he certainly would have been a focus of the highlight films in question.

The NFL’s attorneys argued that the market for the films at this point is minimal and Garbis seemed to agree, saying they’d only appeal to people who “wanted to relive the good old days. Which for us were actually the bad old days.”

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Former student recalls Hillar

Thomas Maettig says Millersville con man Bill Hillar’s U.S. Army Special Forces impersonation scheme wasn’t necessarily as sophisticated as one would expect, given that he fooled at least 24 organizations — including the FBI — over a period of 12 years.

Hillar, whose real military experience consisted of eight years in the Coast Guard Reserves, was sentenced to 21 months in prison Tuesday after pleading guilty to wire fraud for using fake credentials to make $170,000 teaching counter-terrorism and human trafficking courses to colleges, universities and law enforcement agencies including the FBI and DEA.

He got away with it until a real special forces veteran obtained Hillar’s military records and outed him online in October 2010.

But Maettig, who took Hillar’s one-credit counter-terrorism course at the Monterey Institute for International Studies in 2007, said there were warning signs long before that.

“Red flags — yes, many,” Maettig wrote in an email from Nigeria, where he now works for a German non-profit. ”His course was absolutely devoid of content. He spent hours requesting our expectations and ideas about what we would like to discuss in the following 1.5 days and didn’t get back to it at all. He wasted time. He had us conduct a pointless self-assessment test and spent hours talking about his personal experience. Basically, the class had no content and no structure.”

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Top 5: ‘This whole case was a tragedy of cataclysmic dimension’

Brendan Kearney’s story on the Baltimore County music teacher wrongfully arrested on child sexual abuse charges dominated last week’s list of the most-read stories by The Daily Record’s legal team.

1. Settlement terms revealed in wrongful arrest case
On the morning of Nov. 29, 2007, Yakov Shapiro was preparing for a day of family and music — his two great loves — when there was a knock at the door of his Germantown home.

2. Senate confirms Hollander, Bredar to U.S. District Court
“It’s the fulfillment of a dream from my days as a law clerk,” said Ellen L. Hollander, who in the mid-1970s worked for U.S. District Judge James R. Miller Jr. of Baltimore. James K. Bredar, when he takes the judicial oath, will become the first former federal public defender to sit on the federal bench in Maryland — a slice of history he deeply appreciates.

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Now entering their appearances…new Prince George’s corruption counsel!

A month and a half ago I wrote about the addition of a young but high-profile lawyer to the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s office, Leo J. Wise.

When U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein told me Wise, who policed Congressional ethics for the past couple of years, would prosecute white-collar crime as an AUSA, the bribery case against state Sen. Ulysses Currie (D-Prince George’s) and a pair of Shoppers Food executives immediately came to mind.

Well, Wise entered his appearance in Maryland’s federal court for the first time this week, and, sure enough, one of the two (sets of) cases on his personal docket is the Currie-Shoppers prosecution.

Presumably, no one will disassemble the U.S. Attorney’s office (as certain members of Congress reportedly have suggested re: the OCE) before trial in the case next summer…

Of course, Rosenstein’s office’s other major political corruption prosecution (and ongoing investigation) also involves Prince George’s County, and there was attorney news in that cluster of cases, too, this week.

In case you’ve been asleep for the past month, County Executive Jack B. Johnson and his wife, Leslie, were arrested Nov. 12 after the FBI overheard the couple scrambling to hide nearly $80,000 in cash and a check for $100,000 in, um, various places.

Prominent defense attorney William R. “Billy” Martin, who has defended people like Michael Vick and the mayor of Atlanta, seemed an appropriate person to represent Jack Johnson, but few had heard of Leslie Johnson’s counsel, Owings Mills attorney Roland N. Patterson Jr.

Apparently the county councilwoman-elect decided she needed a little more heft to protect her from federal prosecutors because this week a big-firm attorney, whose office is in the Watergate building no less, entered her appearance on behalf of Mrs. Johnson. Perhaps not coincidentally, Shawn M. Wright is a partner at Martin’s old firm, Blank Rome LLP.

So, dear readers, do you think these these personnel moves will significantly impact the evolution and outcome of these cases or were these politicos’ looking at jail time regardless of any clever attorney’s maneuvering?

Stollof: The perp who must stay north with the cold

Baltimore County businessman Jack W. Stollof was sentenced to a year and a day of home detention in May for his role in a years-long, multimillion-dollar tax sale bid-rigging scheme.

Perhaps the only reason Stollof, who reportedly drove around in his Jaguar to check up on the properties he’d bought, didn’t receive a prison term like co-defendant and fellow septuagenarian Harvey M. Nusbaum, a lawyer, is because he has a heart condition, as well as a history of bladder cancer and meningitis, and the presiding federal judge decided he was too fragile to survive a year in the clink.

Apparently encouraged by U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz’s clemency, Stollof, through his attorneys, has made several attempts to modify the terms of his home confinement. Hey, why not?

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First Amendment right to a cell phone?

As the The Daily Record’s city courts reporter, I’m quite familiar with the rigors (and failings) of courthouse security. I’ve had to empty my pockets and remove my belt countless times and, occasionally, I’ve had to run back to the office or to my car to drop off whatever prohibited electronic device I happened to be carrying. So I understand the hassle. But hassle isn’t usually grounds for a successful federal civil rights lawsuit, as a federal judge reminded an aggrieved Prince Frederick man earlier this month.

According to Harold Hodge Jr.’s suit, the trouble began on April 9 when he attempted to enter the Calvert County government building that hosts the district court. A guard manning the metal detector told Hodge to remove his belt and leave his cell phone outside. Hodge protested, citing the 1968 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Terry v. Ohio, but eventually complied with both requests. A similar series of events played out on several other occasions at the district court building and at the circuit court nearby before Hodge eventually filed suit on Aug. 30.

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Saint goes marching into courtroom

After spending a long weekend in New Orleans, I discovered firsthand the locals really love their food, their drink and, much to my delight, their seersucker (pre-Memorial Day, natch). But that town really, really loves its football team, the New Orleans Saints.

I know there are rabid football fan bases all across the country, including right here in Baltimore. But the connection feels deeper in New Orleans.  A lot of it is because the team is forever intertwined with Hurricane Katrina, and some of it has to do with the team winning the Super Bowl in February. But I got the feeling that even if the fleur-de-lis was not named the state symbol two years ago, the Saints logo might still have been emblazoned on the side of every city trash can.

I bring this up to point out a class-action lawsuit set to be heard this week in U.S. District Court in New Orleans. More than 2,100 plaintiffs are suing a Chinese drywall manufacturer for product defects causing both structural damage and health problems. The lead plaintiff? Sean Payton, the Saints’ head coach.

Sports Illustrated’s Peter King noted the hearing yesterday in his Monday Morning Quarterback Column. “Heck of a choice for lead plaintiff,” King wrote under a “Home-Court Advantage Dept.” heading. “Sounds like kicking off in a football game with a 21-0 lead.”

To that, I would add: good luck, defense, finding impartial jurors. And I wish I had thought of a way to convince my editors I needed to cover the proceedings.

Brotha Workitout

I’ve seen some strange case captions in my almost three years here at The Daily Record (especially in federal forfeiture actions), but a rearraignment scheduled for tomorrow morning in U.S. District Court in Baltimore might set a new bar.

Takebrotha workitout screen grab a look at Judge J. Frederick Motz’s 10:30 a.m. engagement.

That’s right, a bank fraud and identity theft defendant named Brotha Workitout is finally pleading guilty (to a misdemeanor related to using fraudulent identification documents).

“That is actually his name,” confirmed Assistant Federal Public Defender Brendan A. Hurson, who is representing Workitout. “He had some mental health issues and he changed his name.”

Workitout, whose given name is James Weldon Hunter Jr., has been receiving treatment  since around the time of his not-guilty plea three years ago, and his deal with the government envisions more of the same.

“Things are better,” Hurson said, noting Workitout hasn’t had “a single brush with the law” since his indictment in 2006 . “But unfortunately the name remains.”

It is unclear what name Workitout, who is also identified in court papers as Hesman Wisteria Tall, will go by during his probation, but regardless, I’m glad to hear it’s all … working out.

This Week in Maryland Lawyer

On the Cover:  Welcome to the first Monday in October! This morning marks the Supreme Court debut of Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and Assistant Public Defender Celia Anderson Davis, who will argue over a Hagerstown man’s child sex abuse conviction. The question is whether a request for counsel, years earlier, should have stopped police from questioning the suspect without a lawyer after they obtained additional information. Read the main story, some advice from Gansler’s predecessor, and a preview of the new term.

In the News: The Court of Appeals heard argument in a legal malpractice case that challenges the “case within a case” methodology … the ban on self-represented lawyers claiming attorneys’ fees applies even to bad faith or frivolous actions, the Court of Special Appeals holds … Maryland Legal Services Corp. renews its quest for a higher filing-fee surcharge … Sen. Ben Cardin finds a civil audience for his health-care talk at UB Law… and a former CBS Early Show personality appeals a ruling that knocked out his medical malpractice claim.