Monday, May 1, 2006
7 News Investigations: Jailbait
It seemed like a dream for some South Florida families. A legal dream team. Vowing to get their sons out of prison when no-one else could. It is a remarkable claim. But a Seven News Investigation has discovered the claim may turn out to be a crime. Seven News investigative reporter Patrick Fraser has been working on the story and tonight can finally tell us what he discovered.
WSVN--Lloyd Hazel was given 30 years in prison for armed robbery and kidnapping.
His mother is convinced his sentence was way too long.
Patrick Fraser: "Do you want him out?
Joy Mentis: "Yes -- badly."
And then Joy says an incredible opportunity came along..when a firm promised to file an appeal and get her son out of jail.
Joy Mentis: "He said they were like the best post-sentencing firm. And that I could go on the internet and check them."
Joy checked out T.A. Brockington and Associaties. Saw the man who appeared to head the firm.
Saw all their associates and then heard about their guarantee.
Joy Mentis: "He said that he guarantees if he does not get relief for my son he will return every penny that I paid them."
Joy paid $2,500, convinced that her son would soon be coming home from prison, thanks to T.A. Brockington.
Patrick Fraser: "Who is T.A. Brockington?"
Joy Mentis: "I guess that's the owner of the firm."
Patrick Fraser: "Is he a lawyer?"
Joy Mentis: "I guess he is the lawyer."
Patrick Fraser: "A group of lawyers getting inmates out of prison? Not even close. We did a little digging and discovered T.A. Brockington is not this elderly white male. It's a 28-year-old woman. These so-called associates are actually models taken from other websites. The only real employee, this guy who calls himself Daniel Lewis. He created the company, but his real name -- William Daniel -- an ex-con with a long record."
Joy Mentis: "Wow."
Joy had called us after she paid the firm and they disappeared. She didnt expect our news.
Patrick Fraser: "What if I told you T.A. Brockington was a 20-something-year-old woman. She is not a lawyer."
Joy Mentis: "I wouldn't like that."
Neither did we so we went looking for the man who created T.A. Brockington and Associates."
Patrick Fraser: "I'm Patrick Fraser."
We found William Daniel living with his parents.
Patrick Fraser: "I thought you were a law firm?"
Daniel told me he is working out of his bedroom using other ex-cons to get convictions of current cons overturned.
William Daniel: "Because people can't afford actual representation, you know, of say a post conviction attorney."
Daniel did admit that the real T.A. Brockington was just a female friend of his. And he took this strangers picture from another website because he didnt think people would trust him as the face of the company.
William Daniel: "If you look at me you know, even if I could help you, would you give it that chance?"
In that respect, Daniel is right. If you saw his long rap sheet you'd probably think twice before giving him $2,500.
Patrick Fraser: "Who came up with the name Bill Gates for one of your associates?"
William Daniel: "Haha, that was the web designer."
Daniel thought that was funny but he says he is very serious about helping inmates.
Patrick Fraser: "How many people have you gotten out of jail?"
William Daniel: "Quite a few...quite a few..."
Patrick Fraser: "Can you give me the names of some of the people you got out?"
William Daniel: "Well thats pretty much confidential."
Daniel wants to keep that confidential. But he wants to make one thing very clear.
William Daniel: "We are defintely not lawyers."
He says it, but experts say his webpage tells a completely different story.
Kevin Tynan: "It clearly looks like they are trying to practice law without a license..to me."
Kevin Tynan defends people accused of practicing law without a license. He agreed to look at the website and the contracts put together by Daniel.
Kevin Tynan: "Part of the language talked about going to court, address things on the clients behalf. That's the practice of law. I mean, you can say it's not but to use a bad adjective, 'If it look like a duck and quacks like a duck, its a duck.'"
And after we confronted Daniel his webpage shut down.
He had told me he understood the consequences of practicing law without a license but he denies doing it.
William Daniel: "It's actually a felony. You can't use those terms and we don't use those terms."
But investigators believe he was trying to convince people he was running a law firm.
As a result the, Florida Attorney Generals office got a temporary injunction stopping T.A. Brockington and freezing the companies assets.
The Statewide Prosecutors office has opened an investigation into the firm. But the day I talked to William Daniel, he was not worried about coming under scrutiny.
William Daniel: "They couldn't stop it, because legally, you know what I mean, it's legitimate. They couldn't stop it."
But they have for now -- too late for Joy Mantis, who thought she was giving $2,500 dollars of her hard earned money to law firm.
Patrick Fraser: "They're not hurting the inmates...their hurting you."
Joy Mentis: "That's really sad that a person will play on your hurt and for someone to know that they cannot do anything -- and just make these false promises -- is sad."
Daniel did tell me if Joy was not happy he would give her money back. He promised me would call her and talk to her.
He didn't. Joy told me if he had called she would have been so surprised. She would have had a heart attack.