Feds Bust Phony Lawyer Whose Website Cribbed From Cravath

Pope and Dunn

Screenshot of an archived image from the website of "Pope and Dunn."

A 23-year-old man from Tennessee was arrested Tuesday and charged with pretending to be a high-powered New York City attorney, partly by copying and pasting lawyer biographies from the website of Cravath, Swaine & Moore.

John Lambert was charged in Manhattan federal court with wire fraud and conspiracy for allegedly taking upward of $16,000 under false pretenses from consumers and businesses who found him online. In some cases, Lambert, under the fictional identity of lawyer “Eric Pope,” simply abandoned his clients, authorities said.

As of Wednesday morning, a profile for "Pope and Dunn," Lambert’s purported law firm, was still available on the freelancing website Upwork. The profile linked to a defunct website whose archived version from 2017 includes a snazzy logo and claims the firm “protected” more than $380 million for more than 2,000 clients. It also lists five “attorney” profiles that appear to have been partly copied from Cravath’s website.

One of the supposed lawyers, Howard Whittington, is described as helping banks “in a wide variety of domestic and international financial transactions, including financing of mergers, acquisitions, recapitalizations and spin‑offs, working capital financings and various special‑purpose financings.” That phrase appears word-for-word on the Cravath profile of retired partner James Cooper.

Pope and Dunn’s website also called its supposed lawyer Gregory Shapiro “one of the foremost leaders in the field of intellectual property, including intellectual property management and strategy, the development of global intellectual property norms, laws and practices as well as commercialization and enforcement of innovation‑based assets.” That is just one word off from the Cravath profile of partner David Kappos.

Another phony Pope and Dunn lawyer, Robert Knight, used material from the Cravath profile of corporate partner Mark Greene. An archived copy shows that whoever made Knight's profile even left a reference to "Mr. Greene" in Knight's biography.

“Lambert was just a wolf in sheep’s clothing, swindling his victims of their hard-earned money,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement. “Now, Lambert is in need of a real attorney as he must answer for his alleged crimes.”

Lambert’s real attorney, a Tennessee public defender, declined to comment. Court records show he was released on a $20,000 unsecured bond and ordered to appear in New York on April 29.

According to the complaint filed by an FBI agent, Lambert lived in North Carolina but used spoofed telephone numbers to make it seem like he was in New York as part of the scheme, which ran from August 2016 until April 2018. The case was partly built on information from a co-conspirator who used the Shapiro identity to do phony legal work, the complaint states.

Lambert’s alleged victims included a printing company, a skincare company, an information technology consulting company and consumers who were having issues with a credit ratings agency. One of the consumers took money from his or her 401(k) account to pay “Pope” more than $10,000, but the phony lawyer eventually stopped responding to emails, the agent said.

It's not clear if Upwork is the same freelancing platform referred to in the complaint, but the website's profile for Pope and Dunn lists eight jobs done by its business manager, "Eric P.," and several apparent customers posted satisfied reviews. The website listed the firm's hourly rate as $120 and its "job success rate" as 75 percent.

A Cravath representative didn’t respond to a request for comment.