SKOKIE, Ill. (CBS) — A man who allegedly impersonated a lawyer to get money from criminal suspects in more than 60 cases in Cook County has been indicted on three felony counts.
Tahir Malik — a convicted burglar who had no legal training — allegedly posed as a lawyer for years, representing clients in criminal and traffic cases, in foreclosures and before administrative bodies. He was arrested last month at the Skokie courthouse, according to the Cook County Sheriff’s office.
On Tuesday, Malik, 47, indited on two counts of forgery and one count impersonating a lawyer, according to Cook County prosecutors. He’s scheduled for arraignment Jan. 31.
“No one suspected anything for years because he did everything right — except obtain a law degree,” Sheriff Tom Dart said in a statement.
Malik allegedly had notes on 60 cases in his briefcase when he was arrested and court regulars have told investigators that they have seen him for years, although Dart said Malik has left little in the way of a paper trail. One man told investigators he hired Malik because Malik had represented a relative five years ago.
Investigators have contacted some of his victims to determine how much he was paid for his so-called legal work and were told he charged $500 to $4,500 per case. He is believed to have entered please on some clients’ behalf and represented them at sentencing hearings.
Malik previously has been convicted of burglary and served time in prison and also previously has been charged with theft, shoplifting and criminal trespass.
CBS 2’s Mike Parker caught up with Malik’s father last month at the Skokie apartment where he had been living with his parents since getting out of prison on a burglary rap. Malik said his son was doing no harm, but rather helping people who needed counseling and charging only $5 or $10.
“He was just trying to help people who cannot speak English fluently and who are not familiar with the system,” the elder Malik said.
“It wasn’t just, ‘Here, $50 and I’ll handle your speeding ticket,’” the sheriff said. “There were cases when he was charging $4,500 for cases. So, significant cases, significant money.”
Dart said his investigators have evidence that Malik represented clients in criminal and traffic cases at the in the Skokie and Bridgeview courthouses, as well as at the Daley Center, and also represented clients in foreclosures and before administrative bodies.
A Skokie bailiff and judge called his bluff when he said he was substituting for another attorney. The judge asked him what law firm, and Malik replied with the name of a firm with which the judge was quite familiar. A quick call ascertained that Malik had no connection with the firm — and Dart said it didn’t take long to determine that Malik’s only exposure to the law came not from law school, but from being a defendant.
“We have no evidence he’s ever even passed by a law school, let alone attended one,” Dart said.
Cook County State’s Attorney’s office spokesman Andy Conklin said those who believe they did not get adequate representation from Malik could file motions to reopen their cases.
Dart said his office wants to know the full extent of Malik’s extralegal activities as a lawyer, and is urging anyone who was represented by him — no matter what the outcome — to call his office at (773) 869-6466.