Gina Niedzwiecki had no reason to believe Gilbert resident Gary Karpin wasn’t an attorney helping her through her divorce.
He talked the talk and a law degree graced the wall of his northeast Phoenix office, she said.
But by the time her divorce decree came in the mail, he had charged her $87,000 for work she could have done herself for $400 and she had discovered he was a disbarred attorney from Vermont, she said.
Now the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, which is prosecuting Karpin on 16 counts of fraud, is looking for more people like Niedzwiecki by setting up a special hotline.
"It’s a significant case and growing," County Attorney Andrew Thomas said.
A grand jury indictment lists 14 victims representing about $500,000 in losses, but since Karpin’s July arrest more than 100 people have called and complained about him, Thomas said.
Karpin, 54, is in jail in lieu of $250,000 bail.
A case summary states that Karpin, a divorce mediator who did business under various names, claimed or implied to his clients that he was a lawyer.
Karpin would claim to file paperwork that never was filed or was incorrectly prepared, the summary states.
He would also quote clients a price and then continually ask for more, telling them he would not file anymore paperwork unless he was paid, the summary states.
Thomas said anyone who has done business with Karpin should check their state of affairs because there is a chance some clients might not actually be divorced or might not actually have child custody because Karpin may have completed the paperwork incorrectly or not at all.
A call to Karpin’s attorney went unreturned.
Karpin’s next court appearance is Tuesday.
If you believe you have been victimized by Gary Karpin, who has done business as Divorce with Dignity, Divorce Associates, Relationships with Dignity and A Dignified Divorce, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office wants you to call (602) 372-7777