Indian-American lawyer convicted in US for lies in Britain

An Indian-American lawyer, who lied about her work experience and shaved nearly 20 years off her age in an effort to be admitted to the British bar, has been convicted by a New York judge.

The lawyer, Soma Sengupta, 52, was convicted Friday of nine deception charges in a Manhattan court, where Justice Thomas Farber of State Supreme Court decided the case without a jury at her request, the New York Times reported.

"One could not help but be struck by the sheer magnitude and the intensity and breadth of the defendant's lies and schemes and deceitful behavior," Farber was quoted as saying.

Sengupta, who now lives in New Jersey, was convicted of eight felony forgery and false instrument counts and one misdemeanour conspiracy charge.

The most serious count carries a maximum prison sentence of seven years.
Farber scheduled her sentencing for March 22.

"For 10 years, this defendant piled lie upon lie until the tower of deception she built finally fell in upon itself," Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, said in a statement after the verdict.

Sengupta graduated from Georgetown Law School in 1998 and passed the bar exam in New York State in 2000, according to the Times, and worked as a paralegal for the Manhattan district attorney's office and as a volunteer for the Legal Aid Society.

Sengupta never appeared in court or wrote court briefs in either job. But when she applied for admission to the British bar, she claimed to have been an accomplished trial lawyer in both posts, which allowed her to avoid one year of class work, Times said.

She also forged reference letters, transcripts from Georgetown that inflated her academic achievements and a birth certificate.

Sengupta's scheme began to unravel after a clerk in the British law firm doubted a claim on her application that she was 29. She was actually then in her late 40s.
During the trial, Sengupta's lawyer, James Kousouros, acknowledged that his client had forged documents, but he challenged the case on technical legal issues, according to the Times.

He said Sengupta would appeal the verdict.

After she was terminated from the office, Sengupta volunteered at The Legal Aid Society in Manhattan between 2003 and 2007. Between November 2006 and March 2009, she was found to have created email addresses and domain names for former employers to deceive prospective employers and accreditation boards.
She gained admission to The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple – one of four Inns of Court based in London, and a necessary step before being called to the Bar.
This time Sengupta used a forged reference letter from a Georgetown University Law Center professor who had died prior to the date the letter was written.
Using forged materials, Sengupta also applied to a leading law chamber in London to obtain a pupillage, which is a year of paid on-the-job training for individuals seeking to become attorneys in England.
She was found to have repeatedly lied to prospective employers and law chambers in London that she had been employed as an Assistant District Attorney at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

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