Three attorneys accused of racketeering in Genesee County
They allegedly failed to serve court papers for civil lawsuits, leading to default judgments and financial awards
FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - Three attorneys from an Oakland County law firm are accused of conducting a criminal enterprise by collecting money from lawsuit defendants without their knowledge.
Investigators say 70-year-old Marc Fishman, 32-year-old Ryan Fishman and 33-year-old Alexandra Ichim filed civil lawsuits on behalf of their clients in Genesee County. However, they allegedly did not carry out required processes for notifying the defendants in about 30 cases.
All three attorneys from the Fishman Group allegedly claimed court documents in debt collection lawsuits were served at the defendants’ last known addresses.
That led courts to enter default judgments against the defendants in those lawsuits, allowing the plaintiffs -- and the three accused attorneys -- to collect financial awards from the defendants’ bank accounts. They allegedly claimed judgments worth over $1 million from at least 1,000 people.
However, investigators say the court summonses never were served at the defendants’ last known addresses, so they were not notified of the debt collection claims pending against them. Document servers tried to serve the papers and could not in many cases, but the attorneys allegedly forged court documents indicating the papers had been served.
“These lawyers put a dagger in the heart of due process and victimized some of the most vulnerable residents in our state,” said Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton.
Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson said many of the victims in the alleged scheme may not know or understand what happened. The courts would garnish wages, tax returns, stimulus checks and bank accounts from defendants after the default judgments were entered.
However, Swanson said many of the victims didn’t owe any money. The victims who sought other legal help to fight the debt allegations had the cases against them dropped almost immediately.
“They counted on people not making a fuss,” Swanson said. “They count on people not knowing what their legal rights were, and those are the ones they victimized.”
One of the victims was an elderly woman who dementia, who was forced to move into a adult foster care home after losing money to the alleged scheme.
Leyton said the charges issued in Genesee County only date back to 2019, but the scheme may have gone back further.
The Fishmans, who are father and son, and Ichim all appeared in Genesee County District Court for arraignment on Tuesday.
- Marc Fishman is charged with racketeering and obstruction of justice.
- Ryan Fishman is charged with racketeering, 30 counts of forgery and obstruction of justice.
- Ichim is charged with racketeering, 30 counts of forgery and obstruction of justice.
All three entered not guilty pleas and were offered bond, but they remained in custody immediately after arraignment. They all face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the racketeering charges.
If they are released on bond, none of them would be allowed to work as attorneys while the case continues in the courts.
The Fishmans and Ichim are scheduled to appear in Genesee County District Court again on April 15 for another hearing.
Leyton believes the group may have carried out similar schemes in Oakland, Kalamazoo, Calhoun, Ingham and Livingston counties. They may also work in Florida and Colorado. He is working with prosecutors in other counties and the Michigan Attorney General’s Office to continue the investigation.
Swanson said anyone who believes they were victimized by the Fishman Group should collect all of the records or court documents in their possession and contact their county prosecutor.
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