Heard, considered, and decided by the court en banc.
Imposition of identical discipline under Minnesota Rules on Lawyers Professional Responsibility 12(d) is not an appropriate sanction for lawyer who resigned from the practice of law in California with disciplinary charges pending because Minnesota does not allow a lawyer to resign from the practice of law when disciplinary charges are pending.
Disbarrment is the appropriate discipline for a lawyer convicted of felony mail fraud when there are no mitigating circumstances.
Took No Part: Anderson, G. Barry, J.
On September 9, 2003, respondent Alfred Perez, Jr. admitted service of a notice of petition for disciplinary action against him. In the petition, the Minnesota Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility alleged that Perez had failed to notify the Director of a felony conviction and subsequent disciplinary proceedings in California. As a result, the Director petitioned that we disbar Perez or impose otherwise appropriate discipline. We appointed a referee to hear this matter and to issue his recommendation for discipline. The matter is now before us on the referee's report and recommendation of disbarrment. We agree with the referee's recommendation and order that Alfred Perez, Jr. be disbarred.
Alfred Perez, Jr. was born and raised in California. He obtained his undergraduate degree from Yale University and law degree from Hastings Law School in San Francisco. After failing the California bar examination several times, Perez realized that he could represent clients in federal immigration proceedings as soon as he obtained a license to practice law from any state. Apparently, Perez had relatives in Minnesota, which led him to apply for admission here. On April 27, 1987, he was granted a license to practice law in Minnesota. He then joined the practice of a Los Angeles area organization specializing in immigration matters. In August 1988, Perez was finally granted a license to practice law in California. The following year, he requested that Minnesota place him on continuing legal education restricted status.*fn1
In January 1990, Perez met lawyer Wade Shang. Shang was leaving the legal profession and offered to transfer his practice to Perez. Perez accepted the offer and took over Shang's practice in Burlingame, a city just south of San Francisco. Two months later, Perez opened a second office in the Los Angeles suburb of South Pasadena.
At the time Perez opened these two law offices, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was investigating personal injury insurance fraud schemes in California. The FBI conducted sting operations where agents posed as either uninjured accident victims seeking recovery on personal injury claims or as "cappers." Cappers are essentially client brokers, who arrange medical treatments and legal representation for personal injury claimants in return for a fee or percentage of any eventual insurance settlement. This practice is illegal in California.
As part of an FBI sting operation, agent George Henderson posed as an uninjured automobile accident victim seeking recovery on a personal injury claim. Perez had inherited Henderson's case from Shang. While working on Henderson's case, Perez met with two other FBI agents posing as cappers. Then, in September 1990, these agents referred three new clients to Perez's Burlingame office. All three clients were also undercover FBI agents. According to Perez, his assistant Dennis Santos recommended that the three clients seek treatment from a physician, Dr. Appolonia Dimapilis. Perez asserted that he never met Dimapilis in person prior to his grand jury indictment for insurance fraud. Dimapilis treated the three new clients between September 18 and October 3, 1990. It appears that with respect to at least one of these cases, Perez's law office also had a relationship with Zoila Coronel, an administrative employee of the St. Anthony Medical Clinic.
Perez struggled to maintain his law practice in Burlingame, and ultimately closed that office in March 1991. He then relocated his Burlingame practice to Santos's home. In November 1992, FBI agents searched Perez's South Pasadena office. ...