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In-House Chief Set Up Fake Law Firms to Steal $8 Million: Lawsuit

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By Andrew Chow, Esq. on June 19, 2012 6:02 AM

You won't find Maio & Cardenas in any law firm directory, because it doesn't exist. Yet the fake law firm, and others like it, collected more than $8 million in legal fees in a fraud linked to a former in-house counsel named Anthony Chiofalo, a lawsuit asserts.

Chiofalo was the in-house legal chief at Tadano America Corp., a hydraulic crane manufacturer based in Houston. Tadano's lawsuit accuses Chiofalo of billing the company for legal services that were never provided, the ABA Journal reports. The payments allegedly went to the fake law firms under Chiofalo's control.

Tadano is now seeking more than $8 million in reimbursement from Chiofalo. If only the company could find him.

Fake law firm founder Anthony Chiofalo's whereabouts are currently unknown, ABA Journal reports. (Tadano's lawsuit suggests process servers may want to try looking for him at his Texas home, his rental property, "or wherever else he may be found.")

Perhaps Tadano America Corp. should have known better than to hire Chiofalo to head its in-house department. After all, Chiofalo wasn't even licensed to practice law in Texas, Courthouse News Service reports. He also had his law license suspended in New York in 2010, though he declined to disclose that fact to Tadano, the company's lawsuit claims.

After allegedly siphoning millions from Tadano, Chiofalo and his wife Sarah wired nearly $1.9 million to an auction house, Houston's KHOU-TV reports. The couple allegedly bought paintings, sculptures, comic books, and other collectibles.

Though fake law firm founder Anthony Chiofalo is currently a fugitive, his wife Susan is in custody and is charged with felony theft. She claims she hasn't seen her husband in four weeks, KHOU reports.

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