The first was a lawyer pretending to be someone else and the other someone pretending to be a lawyer.
Soma Sengupta was the lawyer who wanted to be someone else. Though she was late 40-something, Sengupta said she was 29. Fibbing about her age wasn’t half her problem — but lying about her age was what led to her downfall.
Bogus claims about work history and purported accomplishments also caught up with Soma Sengupta. It led to her conviction on eight felony forgery and false instrument charges and one misdemeanor conspiracy charge. The Manhattan D.A. called her actions a “tower of deception.”
Ironically, as a NY lawyer and Georgetown Law Grad, it wasn’t like Sengupta didn’t already have decent credentials. All the same, she felt compelled to embellish her curriculum vitae with forged transcripts, reference letters and nonexistent trial experience all so she could win a competitive post with a British firm.
Sadder still was the odd case of the ‘Fake lawyer’ arraigned after allegedly representing clients with no degree.” The reportedly mentally troubled 42-year old Terrence Kindlon is alleged to have falsely represented a client in court three times last year. He’s not a lawyer but pretended to be one in the same courthouse where he himself is a defendant in two open burglary felonies.
So besides facing the two felony charges, he’s now also charged with offering a false instrument for filing as well as the unauthorized practice of law. He also managed to annoy the Manhattan DA’s public integrity unit chief who said, “The defendant has shown the utmost contempt of the courts — pretending to be a lawyer in the same courthouse where he has two open cases.”
As it turns out, lying about credentials is common. Some people can’t resist the temptation to burnish the B.S. to get ahead. For instance, there’s Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson who padded his resume and lost his job. And Laura Callahan who lost her post as a senior director with Homeland Security’s Chief Information Office because of a diploma mill-laden resume. Or who can forget George O’Leary who quickly lost his job as Notre Dame’s football coach because he misrepresented his academic and athletic background?
And then there was Juan Miguel Ramirez Sanchez, the Mexican university president found to have a fake degree and Pedro Delgado, the Ecuador Central Bank President who resigned after admitting his own fake degree and Bausch & Lomb CEO Ron Zarella who after admitting to falsely claiming an NYU MBA, lost a $1.1 million bonus.
Last year, a Maricopa County judge dropped out of her election campaign amid scrutiny over credentials she once claimed to have but later didn’t.
The Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct issued an Order December 4, 2012 reprimanding Justice of the Peace Melanie DeForest for violating the Judicial Conduct Code when among other lapses, she “provided incorrect information about her educational qualifications for purposes of her online judicial biography, included incorrect information on her resume that inflated her qualifications.”
Judge DeForest had been appointed to the job when prior JP Phillip Woolbright was relieved of his duties after the Commission on Judicial Conduct recommended a 60 day suspension for ethical misconduct.
Lord only knows why with the JP qualifications bar already set so low, she bothered at all. The only requirements to earn a handsome six-figure annual salary as a Justice of the Peace in Arizona “are that you be a registered voter in Arizona, reside in the justice court precinct and understand the English language.”
But really, what’s the point of lying? Sooner or later, B.S.’ers and impersonators get outed. Some get caught routinely mislabeling seafood. And others get exposed selling horse meat masquerading as beef.
Whether fraudulent food or counterfeit credential, it seems few can resist the pressure to get ahead — to unfairly compete.
Is it because increasingly, “the college degree is becoming the new high school diploma: the new minimum requirement” and it “takes a BA to find a job as a file clerk”?
But with privacy eviscerated by social media and 24/7 media, there’s little place to hide — not to mention the proliferation of background checkers and employment screeners. Indeed, according to one background checking company, as many as 40 percent of resumes contain phony information. And in 2011, a European background screening firm revealed an astounding 48 percent increase worldwide in the number of known fake diploma mills.
The lies we tell ourselves.
It’s been said “There are two kinds of secrets; the ones we keep from others and the ones we hide from ourselves.” Maybe, that’s why some may insist, “I wasn’t lying — I was over credentialed,” — an explanation not far from what the late comedian George Gobel famously quipped, “I’ve never been drunk, but often I’ve been over served.”
Photo Credits: “Benvenuti_ISO800,” by nestor galina at Flickr via Creative Commons-licensed content requiring attribution; “Wishful Thinking,” by uppityrib at Flickr via Creative Commons-licensed content requiring attribution; “Bud taking a closer look,” by ♥ HunterJumper ♥, at Flickr via Creative Commons-licensed content requiring attribution; “From the Bartender’s Point of View,” by Charles Dana Gibson (American illustrator, 1867-1944) 1904 pen and ink on paper illustration for Collier’s Weekly; published in the artist’s collection Everyday People (1904)and sourced by MCAD Library at Flickr via Creative Commons-licensed content requiring attribution;