LICENSED TO NIL
The Fake Lawyer a Little Too Good Not to Get Caught
Reginald Taylor’s law firm was good enough to talk one client’s charge down from jail time to a fine. Too bad it was never legally a law firm at all.
The spelling of the law offices might have been a clue to prospective clients. Mistyped as “Taylor & Associaties, LLP” on their Facebook and webpages, the alleged law firm lacked the professional appearance of some of its competitors.
And for good reason. The firm was headed by one Reginald Taylor, who, despite passing himself off as a certified lawyer, had actually stolen his bar number from another Missouri attorney, prosecutors say. Instead of law school, Taylor appeared to have gained his legal experience through years of his own convictions on fraud, forgery, and theft charges.
Taylor, 40, presented himself as a lawyer for years, a Facebook page for his law firm indicates. But it was one of Taylor’s legal successes that gave him away. While representing a client on drug paraphernalia charges, Taylor arranged a meeting with Grandview, Missouri, prosecutor Roger Potter, the Kansas City Star reports. A misdemeanor drug paraphernalia charge is punishable by up to a year in jail or a $1,000 penalty in Missouri. But Taylor managed to argue his client’s charge down to a littering penalty.
Taylor made no more impression on Potter than did the dozens of other lawyers Potter met that day. “He came in dressed in a suit and represented himself as a lawyer,” Potter told the Star.
But when Taylor went to pay his client’s $229 littering fine, the check bounced, sending up red flags for court clerks, who began looking into the alleged lawyer’s practice. On its face, Taylor & Associates might look like a legitimate law firm, albeit one without a good web presence.
“General law firm providing help to those in need,” reads the firm’s Facebook page, which lists its opening date as May 2013. “Personal Injury, Construction accidents, Contracts, Traffic DUI/DWI.”
Taylor uploaded pictures of custom Taylor & Associates T-shirts, and a conference room padded with legal textbooks. The client Taylor represented in the drug paraphernalia case told police that Taylor kept a framed law diploma. On his Facebook, Taylor made multiple posts indicating that he attended the University of Missouri-Kansas City Law School.
But the law school has no record of Taylor ever attending, an administrator told The Daily Beast. Other aspects of his law practice didn’t hold up to close scrutiny. Taylor officially registered the business “Taylor & Associates Attorneys LLP” with the state in July 2014, but lost the certification a year later after he did not renew his application, records show. All numbers associated with the firm were disconnected on Tuesday. The “Taylor Business Group PC,” another business where Taylor frequently checked in on Facebook, told The Daily Beast that Taylor was unavailable when reached by phone.
When court staff first called Taylor to address his bounced check, Taylor denied having met with Potter, court records obtained by the Star show. When staffers assured him that all he needed to do was write a valid check, he reportedly doubled back on his claim and agreed to pay the $229 fee.
But court staff kept digging into his record. There, they found years of convictions, including on felony counts of fraud and forgery. When they ran Taylor’s Missouri Bar number, they discovered that it actually belonged to a different attorney in Columbia, Missouri, court records show. He was charged with forgery and practicing law without a license.
Prospective clients might not notice the alleged fraud from the optimistic posts on “Taylor & Associaties, LLP”’s Facebook, however.
“We just increased productivity and the of the size of our support staff size,” read a September post. “We fortunate enough to beable [sic] and purchase some up-to-date office equipment from Micro Center.”
According to business records, the LLP wouldn’t be registered for another year and, according to prosecutors, its eponymous attorney never had a law license.