An Indian-origin woman, accused of lying extensively about her age and educational qualifications to get employment as a lawyer in New York and England, has been convicted of forgery and conspiracy in New York and faces upto seven years in prison.
London resident Soma Sengupta, 52, was found guilty following a six-week bench trial in New York State Supreme Court of all charges in the indictment including criminal possession of a forged instrument and conspiracy.
An attorney admitted to practice in New York state, she was convicted of falsifying documents containing information on her educational and professional qualifications in order to obtain employment and professional accreditation.
She would be sentenced on March 22, Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance said in a statement yesterday.
"For ten years, this defendant piled lie upon lie, until the tower of deception she built finally fell in upon itself," Vance said.
Sengupta "forged a birth certificate, college and law school diplomas, a law school transcript, even reference letters from former employers and a Massachusetts state representative. In doing so, she went against the very tenets of the legal profession she so wished to join in England, and violated the rules of the Bar in New York," he added.
Sengupta's lawyer James Kousouros did not dispute that Sengupta had forged documents and lied about her professional experience but said his client planned to appeal.
"Many of the facts were not disputed," he said.
"It was a question of whether the acts constituted the charges and we very strongly believe that they don't."
According to information presented during the trial, from July 2000 to March 2010, Sengupta forged numerous application materials and lied on forms submitted to various organisations, including the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, The Legal Aid Society and the Bar Standards Board in London.
She had served as a paralegal in the Manhattan district attorney's office from July 2000 to January 2003.
Sengupta was however not eligible to work as a paralegal with the district attorney's office, since she was already an attorney and had been admitted to the New York bar.
The district attorney's office does not employ admitted attorneys as paralegals and to gain employment Sengupta claimed she had not completed her degree and was not an attorney admitted to practice law in New York state.
After she was terminated from the office, Sengupta volunteered at The Legal Aid Society in Manhattan between 2003 and 2007. Between November 2006 and March 2009, she was found to have created email addresses and domain names for former employers to deceive prospective employers and accreditation boards.
She gained admission to The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple – one of four Inns of Court based in London, and a necessary step before being called to the Bar.
This time Sengupta used a forged reference letter from a Georgetown University Law Center professor who had died prior to the date the letter was written.
Using forged materials, Sengupta also applied to a leading law chamber in London to obtain a pupillage, which is a year of paid on-the-job training for individuals seeking to become attorneys in England.
She was found to have repeatedly lied to prospective employers and law chambers in London that she had been employed as an Assistant district attorney at the Manhattan district attorney’s office.