Disgraced lawyer handed suspended sentence for forgery

Reuben Micallef faced 12 charges in total, including fraud, misappropriation, falsifying documents and using forged documents. 

A court has delivered a suspended sentence to disbarred lawyer Reuben Micallef, after it found him guilty of several fraud-related charges today.

41 year-old Micallef faced 12 charges in total, including fraud, misappropriation, falsifying documents and using forged documents. 

The court had heard Inspector Angelo Gafa, acting as a prosecution witness, testify to having received a criminal complaint from lawyer Stefano Filletti, on behalf of his elderly client Edwin Zammit – a cousin of Micallef'mother.  Zammit, who lives in Wales, had appointed Micallef to assist him in an unfair dismissal case. According to the criminal complaint, the lawyer had requested a bank guarantee from his illiterate victim, who complied.

Micallef had even gone so far as to tell his client that he had won the case and had been awarded compensation. Zammit’s sister had collected a cheque for Lm 18,000 from Micallef, but the cheque turned out to be forged.

Zammit was then informed by BOV that he was guarantor for a debt of Lm 7,500 in the name of a certain Angela Agius. When he received a copy of the guarantee, Zammit saw that it was made out in favour of Angela Agius and Reuben Micallef. The debt was not repaid and the guarantee was retained.

During questioning, Micallef had admitted to asking Zammit for an unnecessary bank guarantee and  to forging the signatures of Edwin Zammit and his sister on the bank documents. He also admitted to forging a sentence from the Industrial Tribunal and to giving the victim’s sister a forged cheque.

He had expressed remorse for what he had done and told police that he had started refunding the money in installments. 
 A bank employee, summoned as a witness, informed the court that Micallef had withdrawn both bank guarantees to secure an overdraft which he had taken out to furnish his legal office.

Micallef had testified during proceedings and had claimed that Zammit had agreed to act as a guarantor for a loan of his, but had encountered difficulties in meeting repayments. He explained that he had fabricated the tribunal judgment out of shame, rather than admit to having lost the case.

An agreement was reached between the accused and his victim, wherein Micallef would repay Zammit at a rate of €1,000 per week but the court was told that he stopped receiving payments soon after.

Magistrate Miriam Hayman found Micallef guilty of forgery of bank documents. The court was convinced that while it could not find him guilty of counterfeiting the cheque, as the forgery was so poor that it could not convince anyone, it did find him guilty of forging the tribunal judgment and bank pledge form.

The accused was very much aware and intent of committing the abuses, said the magistrate. “As a lawyer, he enjoyed a position of trust and was using this position to make illicit gains. The court said it was repulsed by his actions, noting the grave damage they had done to the image of the legal profession by cementing the negative public perception of lawyers.

Newspaper reports indicate that this was not Micallef’s first time being accused of similar crimes. In 2007 Micallef had been accused of defrauding Audio, Standard Electronics Ltd, KVH Computers, Infomate Ltd, Vision 2000, Biedbug Development Ltd and Raymond Briffa of over Lm1,000 each over the a period of months.

Micallef’s warrant had also been suspended for three months in 2009  and subsequently revoked. This time, the court handed the disgraced lawyer a two-year jail term suspended for four, giving him six months in which he is to pay his victim the outstanding balance of €1,306, also ordering him to pay €1,536 in costs. 

Inspector Jonathan Ferris prosecuted. Lawyer Stefano Filletti appeared in parte civile for Zammit.