The firm that never was

June 20, 2012

In-house lawyer writes $9m of cheques to made-up attorneys

Photo: Shutterstock

We’ve all wished, at one time or another, that our employer would simply disappear. Hence the spectral appeal of Maio & Cardenas LLC, the Houston firm that actually never existed in the first place.

It all started, according to the WSJ, in 2009 when Anthony Chiofalo joined Tadano America Corp, a company famous for its hydraulic cranes. The company believes that ‘machines exist to serve people – and so our products must benefit not only the company itself, but our community, and the environment we all share’. It believes that it has ‘crossed many frontiers in hydraulic crane technology in the pursuit of those ideals’.

So far, so worthy. Anyway, Chiofolo, now 51, became their Head of Legal Affairs and Human Resources Development in 2009. In this capacity he paid $9 million of cheques to the aforementioned ‘Maio & Cardenas LLP’ in return for representation.

Which would have been fine, had the firm not been a fabrication of Chiofalo and his wife, Susan.

The Chiofalos made little effort to disguise their chicanery. As the WSJ reports,

All of the invoices to the firm were sent directly to Mr. Chiofalo’s home address, prosecutors said. The $9.3 million in cheques written to the law firm was deposited in a bank account controlled by Mr. Chiofalo, according to court documents.

Even a simple Internet search of the name reveals a listing that clearly attributes the ‘firm’ to Mr Chiofalo.

Susan Chiofalo was recently apprehended after buying a one-way ticket to New York the day after a conversation with an investigator.

Earlier this year, Mr Chiofalo bought $1.8 million worth of paintings, sculptures, collectibles and comic books at auction. According to the WSJ, Tadano’s new lawyer – who presumably does exist – is ‘cautiously optimistic’ that the assets will be recovered. AB

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