|Houston Criminal Defense Attorney Philip Hilder quoted in Houston Chronicle article |
Lawyer charged with theft in fraudulent billing case
|June 12, 2012 11:22 pm|
Approaching 50 and fleeing a messy divorce that had gotten him in hot water with the New York bar association, Anthony Chiofalodecided to start anew in Texas. He got an in-house job with a Japanese manufacturer in Houston at an annual salary of $110,000 - not great money for a lawyer but enough for a comfortable life in a place where the cost of living was much less.
But Chiofalo apparently did not want a modest home in the suburbs. He and his new wife, Susan, decided something swankier was in order. And to pay for it he decided to supplement his salary with an alleged scheme to rip off his employer to the tune of $9 million. Or $9,329,546, to be exact.
"We're cautiously optimistic that we will be able to recover a fair amount of the assets," said Phil Hilder, a lawyer hired by Tadano to investigate Chiofalo and get as much money back as possible. "We have moved quickly."
As did Chiofalo, who according to a civil lawsuit filed Friday, first tested his scheme in November 2010. That's when he got Tadano to pay $25,000 as a retainer with a law firm he had invented. Using phony invoices from that and other fake firms, Chiofalo repeatedly upped the ante with a series of bills ranging from $20,000 to $1.3 million.
'He was trusted'
Chiofalo was hired by Tadano in 2009 as its general counsel, and part of his job was to oversee litigation involving the company. But the lawsuits that supposedly generated the huge legal bills either did not exist or were exaggerated as part of his scheme, Hilder said.
Had he not been greedy, Chiofalo might have been able to perpetuate the scheme for much longer.
"He was the company's chief legal officer and he was trusted," Hilder said. "The company relied on his representation regarding the litigation. Then they began to question the extent of the litigation. It had not been so extensive in the past. And that raised a red flag."
The board began an internal investigation and then hired Hilder when it became alarmed by what it found. Hilder informed the DA's office of the scheme within the last two weeks, and criminal charges were filed Thursday.
© 2012 Hearst Communications Inc.
Send this page to a friend