Marin lawyer impersonator sentenced in federal fraud case | #phishing | #scams


A woman who posed as lawyer in Marin County Superior Court — then went on to steal more than $300,000 in federal coronavirus aid — was sentenced to 18 months in prison Wednesday.

Miranda Devlin, 37, of San Francisco was ordered to pay $565,355 in restitution, which includes $368,800 in illegally obtained funds from the Small Business Administration, the prosecution said. Devlin accessed the funds through the government’s Paycheck Protection Program to support workers and businesses during the pandemic.

“The PPP fraud was undertaken during a time of great national hardship,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyle Waldinger wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “Many legitimate businesses were in need of the type of PPP loan and other PPP funds that the defendant obtained; the defendant took advantage of a program that was meant to make those funds flow easily to needy legitimate recipients — and not to her.”

Authorities also allege her financial schemes caused $121,932 in losses for Citibank, $39,412 for Wells Fargo and $35,211 for Chase Bank.

The case began in 2019, when Devlin assumed the identities of two licensed attorneys — both with the first name Miranda — to take legal cases in the Bay Area. Her clients included a pair of accused molesters facing trial in Marin.

The scheme was exposed after Marin authorities and Judge Paul Haakenson began to investigate irregularities in her credentials.

Miranda was arrested on a court order obtained by prosecution investigators. She was released on bail pending further investigation.

The investigation continued into 2020 and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Investigators learned that Devlin, who had created an entity called Common Nucleus of Cancer LLC, applied for pandemic aid under the Paycheck Protection Program at the Small Business Administration.

Devlin falsely claimed to have two employees on the payroll, and she used the relief funds for personal purchases such as merchandise from Amazon, Bloomingdale’s and Tiffany & Co., authorities said.

Devlin was arrested again, this time on federal charges. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco filed one count of making false statements on the federal aid application and one count of mail fraud.

The mail fraud charge was for submitting a change-of-address form in another lawyer’s name to the state bar, then having that lawyer’s bar card was forwarded to Devlin’s address.

“She even paid one attorney’s state bar dues, without knowledge of the attorney, to keep the attorney’s license active,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Wednesday.

Devlin accepted a plea agreement in July and admitted to both counts. The 18-month sentence was part of the agreement.

In a sentencing memorandum, defense attorney Mark Goldrosen said Devlin is “extremely remorseful.” He said the crimes happened during a period when Devlin, a mother of four children, was having marital difficulties and was denied a California law license despite passing the state bar exam.

The state bar refused the license after determining that Devlin lacked the “requisite moral character,” Goldrosen wrote. The finding stemmed from a prior two-year sentence for unspecified crimes about 20 years ago.

“Ms. Devlin has no valid excuse to offer the court for her criminal conduct,” he wrote. “She made terrible decisions that caused serious harm to many persons and entities.”

Devlin was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Maxine Chesney in San Francisco.



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