Real Estate Lawyer on Trial for Impersonating NY University Professor

He did it in order to defend his father’s scholarly views, according to the NY Times. A fifty year old defendant and real estate lawyer is on trial, facing charges of identity theft, criminal impersonation, and aggravated harassment. Not your typical identity theft case, these alleged acts weren’t done to gain money, only to intellectually battle the skeptics of his father.

The defendant’s father was a professor at the University of Chicago. He argued that the ancient Dead Sea scrolls (some of the oldest biblical documents), discovered about 50 years ago in caves, were actually held in libraries before being hidden in the caves at wartime. His father’s academic adversaries counter that the scrolls were actually written by a group of Jewish scholars who lived near the caves where they were later discovered.

For those of us not involved in the world of ancient biblical texts and not related to the scholars involved, it seems like a trivial matter. However, the defendant seemed to take interest in his father’s work as early as 15 years of age and obviously took his father’s detractors very seriously.

In an effort to discredit opposing scholars’ viewpoints, the defendant is alleged to have created an email account in the name of one of his father’s scholarly opponents, a professor at New York University. He then is alleged to have sent out emails to faculty at the University and others involved in the argument, admitting he (the impersonated professor) plagiarized some of the defendant’s father’s work.

Apparently, the real estate lawyer took the stand, testifying for several hours on the issues of his father’s work—discussing why his father was correct in his studies. He also spent time dissecting the emails he admits to writing and why they couldn’t have been taken seriously because of his obvious use of “satire, irony, parody, and any other form of verbal rhetoric.”

Despite his conviction that his father’s work was worth defending, the real estate lawyer and committed son is facing up to 4 years in the state penitentiary.

This case goes to show that charges of identity theft don’t have to involve money or goods. Simply by adopting the professor’s name and purporting to be him in emails, he could be going to prison. Under New York law, the charge you face for identity theft can be elevated if there is money involved or if you are accused of committing other felonies at the same time (which this defendant is).

Identity theft is a serious criminal charge and while you might be a very intelligent person, it’s always good to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney.

If you are facing charges of identity theft or harassment, contact us today for a free consultation.

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