By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
The 51-year-old Karpin's Web site includes testimonials from people who say he gets results with his "mediation" techniques.
But Karpin has continued to act as if he's a practicing attorney. County court records show that in January 1997, Judge Joe Howe listed Karpin as the attorney for one party in a divorce case. But Howe learned Karpin didn't hold a license to practice law, and removed him from the case before Karpin attempted to appear in court.
In mid-1999, a Valley woman complained she'd paid Karpin $5,000 with a credit card after he convinced her he could fix the financial issues she was having with her ex-husband.
"There were citations from the prosecutor's office and diplomas on his wall, all leading me to believe I was in a lawyer's office," she told the Bar. "I assumed I was speaking to a lawyer."
She said Karpin later met alone with her husband, where he apparently revealed that he wasn't a licensed attorney. The woman told the Bar she'd confronted Karpin for misleading her about having a license to practice law.
She says he later refunded $2,700 of the $5,000 she'd paid him after she kept complaining. "There was no preparation of documents of any kind," she wrote to the Bar. "There was no mediation. Mr. Karpin did nothing but take $2,300 from me."
The Bar's Fran Johansen informed Karpin that he shouldn't be practicing law without a license. In response, Karpin sounded like the lawyer he once was:
"Your letter is defamatory. Prior administrative discipline is irrelevant to qualifications for mediation. I will protect my right to practice mediation free from slander, defamation and restraint of trade."
By "prior administrative discipline," Karpin was referring to his disbarment.
Karpin tells New Times that Johansen and the State Bar have continued to "conspire" against him.
In September 2001, a Gilbert mother of two hired Karpin because of problems with her ex-husband over child support and custody issues. Tae Eum later told the State Bar she'd hired Karpin because she thought he was a lawyer who also could help solve her growing credit problems.
Eum wrote to the Bar that, during her second meeting with Karpin, he'd asked about romantic relationships she'd had since her divorce. Then he'd advised her to break up with her boyfriend at the time. "Also he said he is very attracted to me, I am very pretty, sexy. When the case is over, he wants to go out with me."
Eum eventually paid Karpin $3,400, with little apparent resolution of her legal problems. Frustrated with his "representation," she secretly taped her last meeting with Karpin, early this year. During the contentious session, Karpin said an unnamed "partner" would represent her in court if she wanted to pursue the case.
"You didn't say anything about your partner," Eum told him. "You said you can represent me. I thought you were an attorney."
"Then why can't you represent me?"
"Because I focus on mediation. That's my practice."
"You're an attorney?"
"Well, I thought I was on the day I graduated from law school and they gave me a juris doctorate degree. But maybe I was confused about that. I am a lawyer-mediator. My practice is mediation. If you want representation, my partner will be glad to provide it for you at trial."
Karpin denied he'd ever asked Eum to go out with him after the case was over, though he admitted dating another female customer who knows Eum.
"This is America," he said. "I'm a bachelor."
A few months after Bill and Becca Ludlow first met with Karpin in 2000, Bill Ludlow filed a petition for conciliation in Maricopa County Superior Court.
"I was thinking maybe we could get back together, and I wanted to buy some time," says Ludlow, a manager for a Mesa camping store. "When I told Gary that, he came unglued. He said it was going to cost me a lot more money, and that . . . conciliation wasn't an option. I believed him at the time."
Ludlow dropped his conciliation attempts, and the divorce became final that September.
But Becca Ludlow had hidden something from her ex-husband until after a judge signed the decree. She says she'd spent time with Karpin outside the office while negotiations with Bill had been ongoing. At one encounter, she says, Karpin had made an overt pitch for her affections.
"I really wasn't leading him on," Becca Ludlow says. "It was just you want someone on your side in your divorce, and Gary definitely was that person. That night at dinner he told me, I'd like to have a physical relationship with you.' That's when I got out of there."
Karpin vehemently denies Becca Ludlow's allegations, saying that he went to lunch with her once, and only after the divorce was final.
After Becca finally told her ex, he says he decided to delve into Karpin's background. On the Internet, he came upon two Web sites that listed Karpin as an Arizona attorney specializing in family law. But Ludlow also found the 1993 Vermont disbarment ruling, and learned Karpin has no license to practice law anywhere.
"I still can't believe that no one can or will do anything about this guy, or anyone else like him," Ludlow says. "He didn't do anything for us except try to come between us and take our money."