The Living Lawyer Joke

Q: What do you call someone who allegedly forges signatures, takes clients for hundreds of thousands of dollars, lies to police and helps burn down a building in an insurance scam? A: Until very recently, an attorney in good standing.

If the current secrecy rules are dropped, the Arizona Bar Association will be among the most accessible legal regulatory agencies in the country.

Of course, even if the new rules are approved, they won't be retroactive. Which means we will never know why it took so long for the bar association to act on Ted Segal.

What is clear is that many people have been complaining to the bar association for many years--to very little effect. And judging from court filings and other public records, Ted Segal may be an attorney so unethical, he gives lawyers a bad name.

Segal, now 61, tells New Times "it will be proved" that the charges against him are "not necessarily true." And that's all he will say, declining an interview for this story.

Theodore Segal graduated from Temple University Law School in Philadelphia and was admitted into the Pennsylvania bar in 1968. Four years later, he was also admitted to the New Jersey bar.

Because of secrecy policies followed by both bar associations, it is impossible to tell whether clients filed official complaints about the young lawyer. He remained a member in good standing of both bar associations until he was dropped in the early 1990s for not paying fees.

And by then, he was practicing in Arizona.
He was admitted to the Arizona bar in 1983, and almost immediately ran into problems.

Segal's early years as a Phoenix lawyer were marred by several lawsuits filed by clients who said Segal had mishandled their cases. In every instance, Segal denied he'd done anything wrong. After some back-and-forth scrapping, these early cases were dismissed. A Superior Court judge also sanctioned Segal for filing a frivolous claim.

The public-record laundry list of complaining clients lengthened considerably in the 1990s, about the same time Segal's penchant for gambling became evident. Several clients who "invested" with Segal remember--worriedly--that their lawyer talked about his frequent gambling trips to Las Vegas and Laughlin, often accompanied by his wife, Helene "Honey" Segal.

Andrew Myers, a Las Vegas attorney who claims Segal defrauded him of $12,000, recalls Honey and Ted once boasted of plopping $25,000 into high-dollar slot machines in a single weekend. He remembers that the Segals told him hotels "comped" them to free floor shows and elegant rooms--as a token of gratitude, Myers surmises, for the Segals' affection for the slot machines.

Ted Segal's financial problems, says Myers, "have got to be a direct result of gambling, gambling and gambling."

He remembers that Segal would occasionally become severely depressed, as though "life was sometimes more than he could bear."

"But he brought the circumstances on himself," Myers says.
When Segal filed for bankruptcy in 1995, he claimed debts of $455,775 and assets of $207,100. Credit-card debts alone totaled more than $66,000. Two Nevada casinos also lined up in bankruptcy court, claiming Segal owed them a total of $10,000.

Honey and Ted Segal now live in a south-side apartment. Times are hard. The Lexus is gone. Segal can't practice law. And the clients are asking for their money back.

But no one, except for Segal, knows how many clients have "invested" with him and been unable to get their money returned. Records obtained by New Times reveal Segal has failed to list in bankruptcy court at least three other clients who entrusted him with a total of $152,000.

There may be reasons Segal failed to list these client debts. They are not connected with the ten bar-association complaints against Segal. And they carry with them the heavy suggestion of misappropriation of client funds.

Of all of Segal's clients who claim they were wronged in some way by the attorney, Bonnie and Donald Johnson are the only ones who seem to have gone to the police.

The retired couple retained Segal in 1992 to represent them after Donald was severely injured in an auto accident. Bonnie remembers that Segal seemed capable enough, even though he operated at the time out of a "tiny hole-in-the-wall office" in Phoenix.

Send the medical bills to me, and I'll stay on top of this, the Johnsons remember Segal saying.

The Johnsons, who describe themselves as "family folk who don't smoke, drink or bar," say they had no reason to distrust Segal.

And, anyway, they had other worries. Donald had been permanently disabled. In the year following the accident, he had 90 therapy treatments, one operation and $42,000 worth of medical bills.

Because of the disability, the Johnsons say they repeatedly told Segal to settle for no less than $100,000. Throughout the spring and summer of 1995, the Johnsons say they frequently asked Segal about the settlement.

They didn't know that Segal had settled their claim the year before. For $75,000. Or that he'd forged the Johnsons' names to the insurance check, which had been mailed to his office because he was the Johnsons' attorney. He'd also forged two other insurance checks, totaling about $5,000, meant for the Johnsons, the police say.

In the fall of 1995, Bonnie had had enough. She called her insurance company, only to discover that Segal--whom she calls "that little thing"--had already settled the case.

She confronted the lawyer. He mailed her a check for $75,000.
And Bonnie called the police. Ted, she said, we're not going to let you get away with this.

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