#2. John Milton Merritt Steals Money from Injured Orphans
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In 2002, four little girls lost both their parents in a car crash. Attorney John Milton Merritt stepped in and did what any good public servant would do in that situation: He sued the shit out of those responsible for the tragic accident -- namely, a "tire manufacturer" and an "auto maker" -- secured the girls a settlement that would make Charles Dickens proud, and ... then he freaking stole it. Let's say that one more time: He stole a fortune from four little orphan girls.
Never trust a lawyer who has a recipe for gruel.
On three separate occasions, Merritt went to the bank in which the trust fund was deposited, presented a counterfeit court order directing disbursement to him, and walked out carrying large sacks with dollar signs printed on them. Then he promptly spent the blood money on his firm, presumably on avant-garde coffee mugs made out of human skulls. By 2007, two years after his first "withdrawal," the account was empty. Merritt, however, told the orphans and their grandmother that there was still "several hundred thousand dollars" left before laughing maniacally and making his merry way to his secret volcano lair for a comfortable retirement spent alternately wringing his hands and stroking an unamused lap cat.
"Pet all you want; I'm not gonna cosign on that orphan shit, John."
Once you descend that far into stereotypical villainy, though, it's really hard to stop, as evidenced by the fact that four years later Merritt stole $130,000 from the trust account of another client of his -- a boy injured in an automobile accident -- because apparently caviar tastes sweeter when it's purchased with bills soaked in children's tears. Oh, and in the time between burglarizing the orphaned children and the injured one, he stole an additional $3 million by fraudulently setting up lines of credit, falsifying income-tax returns, and forging another attorney's name on other settlement checks. All at the same fucking bank. Would a little oversight kill you, Quail Creek Bank?
His flawless disguise made the fraud impossible to spot.
It's cool, though, because he said he was totally going to give all the kids' money back -- until the federal investigation into his illicit deeds interrupted his plan. Those bastards!
#1. Paul Bergrin Transforms His Law Practice into a Criminal Emporium
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The lawyers we've examined so far have exhibited limited repertoires -- they're all one trick ponies, if you will. New Jersey lawyer Paul Bergrin, on the other hand, apparently studied the entire history of shady lawyers and then asked himself, "Why should I settle for just one crime when I could commit a veritable Tarantino-load of crime?"
Starting his rise to infamy as a defense lawyer, he quickly built a high-profile clientele that included Queen Latifah, Lil' Kim, and the former Miss New Jersey who was jailed for writing bad checks (back when writing checks was a thing). By 2007, Bergrin had graduated to the prestigious moniker of pimp, when, after hiring a drug smuggler and the self-proclaimed "King of all Pimps" as his paralegal, Bergrin decided to make himself the heir to the pimp king's crown. We mean this in the most literal way possible -- he ran a stable of high-end prostitutes on the side. But lest you think poorly of Paul Bergrin, Esquire, we should mention that these weren't your average, everyday streetwalkers -- they charged $1,000 an hour and had titanium business cards, for crying out loud.
Pimp kings haven't held much real power since the '70s, but "Chancellor of all Pimps" just doesn't have that zing.
In 2009, Bergrin was caught and pled guilty to the whole lady-of-the-evening thing, but got by with three years of probation and forfeiting some of his strumpet proceeds. That, however, turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg. See, Bergrin had learned a thing or two about the law on the mean legal streets of the Dirty Jerz, and he was fond of summarizing it thusly: "No witness, no case." A statement which, while absolutely true in most cases, becomes less legal tautology and more action-hero one-liner when you actually hire a hitman to eliminate a witness, advise said hitman on how best to accomplish said elimination, and then make said hitman shit his pants by telling him that you want to participate in the hit.
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"So you wanna get a beer afterward, or should we just drink his blood?"
After noticing a peculiar trend -- namely, witnesses in Bergrin's cases often either altering their stories or just straight-up dying -- authorities finally decided to step in. Bergrin was convicted on 23 counts, ranging from murderous conspiracy and racketeering to drug and prostitution offenses. Finding himself on the other side of the law finally brought down "The Baddest Lawyer in the History of Jersey," and he now spends his time in prison waiting for Hollywood producers to line up outside his cell.
Related Reading: We're only too happy to point out the utterly screwed nature of our justice system. But that doesn't mean Hollywood can't make it seem even more ridiculous. Juries can't conduct their own investigations, 12 Angry Men. Still hankering for legal humor? Read about these "brilliant" movie lawyers who sucked at their jobs.