UPDATE: Skokie Man Busted for Impersonating a Lawyer
Authorities said veteran criminal handled cases for 5 years, never attended law school.
Editor's note: Be sure to read our follow up by clicking here.
With a background in burglary and shoplifting, Tahir Malik realized he was on the wrong side of the law. So, the 47-year-old decided to be a lawyer, but skipped the whole law school thing.
According to a statement released by the Cook County Sheriff's Department today,the Skokie resident is charged with two counts of false impersonation of a lawyer, a felony in Illinois. He has been held at the county jail since Dec. 17 on an earlier contempt of court and false impersonation charge.
His scheme took a bad turn when staff at the Skokie courthouse grew suspicious of Malik's behavior during a hearing about three weeks ago. When questioned about his credentials, court officials realized that Malik wasn't licensed to practice law. The wannabe lawyer was also working on more than 60 cases at the time, according to the Sheriff's Department.
"The audacity of this, the breadth of it, is amazing," Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart told Skokie Patch. "Here's a guy that spent time in the penitentiary and is now walking into a courtroom, into the lion's den, and passing himself as a lawyer. He must have been a good actor."
Depending on the case, Malik charged between $500 and $4,500 and only accepted cash, according to officials. Malik handled traffic cases, mortgage foreclosures and other low-level criminal cases in the Skokie, Bridgeview and Daley Center courts.
Dart said the Sheriff's Department has gotten a hold of at least 10 clients that Malik represented. He added that his task force suspected that Malik had been impersonating a lawyer for about five years.
"Many of his clients were very surprised that [Malik wasn't a lawyer,]" Dart said. "Many people were happy with the results."
It is currently unclear whether Malik's former clients could claim a mistrial or ask for their case to be reopened. Malik mainly posed as a traffic lawyer for simple violations, Dart said.
"Obviously, we don't know the breadth of this, the other part of it is what went on with the cases," Dart said. "Frankly, I think a judge would be more lenient on someone who was just handling traffic cases where nobody was seriously hurt by [Malik's] actions."
Dart, a former prosecutor, said he had never heard of anything similar.
“No one suspected anything for years because he did everything right – except obtain a law degree,” Dart said. “From his own arrest history, he was familiar enough with the court system to make certain motions and file certain documents with the court. There is no question that dozens of people from all over Cook County were misled by this guy.”
Bond was set at $250,000 on Friday and Malik will appear in court on the false impersonation charges on Jan. 28.
Check soon for an update from Skokie Patch.