(STL.News) – Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, announced that Monserrate Morales, age 29, was sentenced yesterday to serve 33 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release for her conviction on one felony count of Wire Fraud and one felony count of Bankruptcy Fraud. The Honorable Timothy L. Brooks presided over the sentencing hearing in the United States District Court in Fayetteville.
According to court records, in 2011, Morales began working for a local law firm where she conducted data entry into bankruptcy software, gathered documents, and drafted correspondence for two attorneys. Throughout her employment with the law firm, with rare exception, Morales was not authorized to collect client payments or deposit them without the assistance of other personnel. In April 2018, the FBI began investigating Morales based upon a bankruptcy fraud referral from the United States Trustee’s office.
The investigation revealed that Morales was converting cash payments from potential clients to her own use during the course of her employment with the law firm. In an effort to lull the potential clients and forestall inquiries into their cases, Morales told them that their documents were being prepared and their cases being filed, when, in many cases, the law firm was unaware that the potential clients had ever sought to retain the firm or made any payments. When the law firm was aware that clients had sought to retain the firm, Morales told attorneys that the clients had not been in contact, and, in some events, caused the closure of client files without informing the attorneys of payments made by those clients.
In furtherance of this scheme, Morales forged bankruptcy documents that contained the signatures of a Federal Judge, the Clerk of the Court’s name and title, and the seal of the Court on documents. She falsely informed potential clients that bankruptcy petitions were being filed on their behalf and forged court documents, bankruptcy documents, and other correspondence. These documents were created by Morales in order to forestall inquiries from clients, lull the clients into continuing payments to Morales, and to conceal her fraudulent behavior from the law firm and attorneys.
Morales was named in a two-count Information filed in May 2019, in the Western District of Arkansas, Fayetteville Division, and entered her guilty plea in May 2019.