‘It’s very stressful’: alleged Fishman Group scam victim owes $14,000+
If you believe you’re a victim, take a look at what steps you need to take to protect yourself and your finances.
GENESEE COUNTY, Mich. (WJRT) - The three civil attorneys at the law firm were charged earlier this month with conducting a criminal enterprise.
“It felt good to see them finally caught for what they were doing, because I knew what they were doing,” said Mike Gorbe, who fell victim to the Fishman Group’s alleged scheme.
Police say 70-year-old Marc Fishman, his son 32-year-old Ryan Fishman and their partner 33-year-old Alexandra Ichim are accused of racketeering, forgery and obstruction of justice.
Three weeks ago, the Genesee County prosecutor and sheriff explained the suspects repeatedly duped judges by faking documents and stealing from their clients. The Attorney General’s Office is now also investigating. It’s believed the attorneys could have 1,000 victims.
Gorbe said he thinks the Fishman Group should’ve been caught a long time ago.
The Genesee County prosecutor said so far investigators believe the scam started in August 2019. Besides them not getting money from Gorbe, the scheme otherwise worked exactly how he experienced it.
“He never got any money. However, Ryan Fishman really tried hard to get money from me,” Gorbe said.
The amount of $14,000 is what he was after, to be exact.
Gorbe is a former police officer. He also had a side business helping bring in extra money to support his family.
The business was run out of a commercial building in Southfield. When the lease was up, he took his time moving out. Gorbe said it was an agreement he made with the next tenant.
“We had talked and we had a schedule down; but the landlord stepped in, out of nowhere and changed the locks,” Gorbe said.
A year later, in the fall of 2019, he said Ryan Fishman called, saying his former landlord was suing him for $14,000. Gorbe still hasn’t seen an itemized bill for why that money is owed.
He filed a response and a hearing was set for them to talk it through. But, a few days before that scheduled court date, Gorbe said he received a notice he had missed the hearing and a judgment had been made.
The judge ruled he owed that $14,000.
“I complained to the court, I complained to the Attorney Grievance Commission,” he said. “And both of those entities did nothing for me. They just said oh well, he said he served you. So that’s it. You can file a motion to have another hearing, but I know how that’s gonna go.”
Gorbe finally got a copy of the paperwork Ryan Fishman told the judge he served him. Gorbe said not only had he never seen it, but Fishman forged his signature.
“You know, my signature’s close, but it’s not mine. I never signed anything,” Gorbe said.
He wants to know why he wasn’t believed, but the attorney was taken at his word without question. Gorbe said the judge should’ve paid closer attention.
It’s especially frustrating he said, because unlike the criminal side, you’re not provided a lawyer in civil matters.
“You got to have money to have access to the courts and it’s a shame,” Gorbe said. “So hopefully this case will send a clear message that, you know, people should demand more accountability, more transparency, more oversight with the courts in Michigan.”
Gorbe, like many of those allegedly scammed by the Fishman Group, still has that judgment against him.
“It’s not closed,” he said. “He could potentially get money from my family. And that’s, it’s very stressful. Because, what do you do? People are hurting right now.”
When he learned of their arrests, Gorbe filed a “Motion and Affidavit to Set Aside Default.”
“It’s really easy to put the plaintiff’s name on here, which is, whoever they were sued by -- the attorney of the Fishman group and then the viewer’s name, and you get it notarized and you take it to the court,” Gorbe explained.
Civil attorney Christopher Ebbott confirmed it’s an easy step for protection. After it’s filed, he said the individual will attend a hearing and explain their side to the judge. Then, the Judge can throw out the case, if it really is fraudulent, or at least decide to delay the payment owed.
“It would just be stating the reasons why it should be set aside. And the reason would be fraud, the reason would be lack of personal jurisdiction -- as you didn’t have proper notice to be able to come to court and defend yourself,” Ebbott explained.
He added the individual has to file the paperwork with the same court they were sued in.
Here is the form that needs to be filled out.
If you’d like to connect with a lawyer, even if you can’t afford one, click here to reach out to the Legal Services of Eastern Michigan. Or, Ebbott said you can typically call a civil attorney for a free consultation.
The three charged are out on bond, but expected back in court next month.
The Genesee County Sheriff’s Office said countless potential victims have called since the charges were announced three weeks ago, adding that the process servers the Fishman Group worked with served 31 counties in Michigan.
So the so-called criminal enterprise could span our state.
In Genesee County, it’s believed the three racked up more than a million dollars from their alleged victims.
If you have dealt with the Fishman Group, you’re urged to also reach out to your local police department. The Genesee County Sheriff asked that you gather all paperwork, including emails and text messages, put together a timeline of all interactions you may have had with the firm and finally, write a statement for police about your experience.
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