Talk about an alternative fee arrangement: Attorney Anthony Chiofalo is accused of using a fake law firm to pay himself $9 million for legal services that were never rendered.
Tadano America Corp., a Houston-based hydraulic crane manufacturer, hired Chiofalo as its head of legal affairs and human resources in January 2009. His duties included hiring and paying outside counsel, and he seemed to perform these tasks admirably, shelling out more than $9 million to the law firm of Maio & Cardenas in 2011.
Unfortunately, authorities say, Maio & Cardenas never existed. Instead, all invoices to the firm were delivered to Chiofalo’s home address—and all checks to the firm landed in his bank account. To maintain the ruse, Chiofalo filed documents in the name of Maio & Cardenas with the Texas secretary of state to create a Texas corporation.
Chiofalo allegedly used the cash to buy $1.8 million worth of artwork, comic books and memorabilia, including a robe worn by Muhammed Ali, and to renovate his house.
After a certified fraud examiner tied Chiofalo to the crime, the lawyer and his wife Susan were charged with aggregate theft. Susan Chiofalo is being held on an $18 million bond; Anthony Chiofalo has not been arrested, but has informed his lawyer that he intends to turn himself in soon.
Read more on the story at the Houston Chronicle.