By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
She says she was convinced that, if she didn't pay, the "firm" would place a lien on her home or garnish her alimony payments, as Karpin had warned.
By now, Gina finally was starting to see the light. Deeply troubled and embarrassed, she says she called the acquaintance who had recommended Karpin more than a year earlier.
She says the woman told her that Karpin apparently was a disbarred attorney from Vermont, and suggested Gina check him out on the Internet.
Gina put a stop-payment on the $9,000 check later that day, August 23. Still ambivalent, however, she canceled that order later that night, then stopped the check again for keeps on August 25 after investigating Karpin on the Net.
The next day, Gina says she left a voice message for Karpin asking for a copy of her file and an itemized bill. Then she called the State Bar and spoke with Fran Johansen, who asked her to document her experience with Karpin in writing.
Even physically, that would be no small task for Gina, as her multiple sclerosis makes it difficult for her to type.
By then, Karpin knew of the stop-payment on the $9,000 and had gone ballistic. He left Gina 15 voice messages within a day's time, which she later included in her complaint package to the Bar.
From the first one: "I've got all kinds of problems with this now. Other people's checks are bouncing relying on your check so it's totally screwed up the business account. I'm gonna have to step into court on this. I need you to make good on those funds today, this afternoon . . ."
From another: "You've caused a lot of damage here by doing this secretly and deceptively without telling me what's going on. You've hurt other people with your actions, and I don't understand it."
And: "I apologize to you for flipping out. It was a mistake. . . . Number two, I won't agree to arbitration or anything else. I don't care about the money. You could keep the money. I really don't care about it."
Over the next month or so, Gina taped all of her conversations with Karpin.
"The reality is that I was scammed out of that money," Gina told him in an August 30 phone call.
"If you [or] anybody says that, I'll sue the shit out of them," Karpin said. "I'll go into court with my work that I did and the result that you got, and I'll defend that until I'm dead."
"I was vulnerable . . . I was a target," Gina told him. "I admit that. I acknowledge that."
"How dare you!" Karpin retorted.
He reiterated that she should "talk to Judge Eve Parks almost daily, if not every two or three days," and reminded Gina that her stop-payment on the $9,000 had wreaked havoc in Family Court.
Gina asked him why Commissioner Harris, not Parks, had signed the divorce decree.
"Judge Parks' assistant signed it," Karpin replied, sounding exasperated. "But [Parks] was in charge of the case the whole time. And all my communications to her on the telephone, directly to her about the case . . . it all occurred, and it was all a matter of getting the decree approved exactly how you wanted it done."
Shortly before the end of the August 30 phone call, Gina asked Karpin: "Gary, am I really that stupid? Tell me. For my own learning, if you are my friend, how do I avoid getting myself into a situation like this next time?"
"Trust my judgment and check in with me," Karpin told her.
Within a day, however, he sang an uglier tune.
"Let me be very, very clear about this," he told Gina. "If I hear from anyone the accusations that you made to me personally, that's defamation and slander. So I'm warning you ahead of time . . . I will act upon it in a legal way to protect my rights under the law."
He now also threatened to sue Gina for the $9,000 that he said she still owed him. When that approach didn't seem to work, he invited her on a vacation trip to Mexico.
"The bottom line on that is, she still owes me $9,000," Karpin tells New Times. "And by the way, when [the Bar lawsuit against Karpin] is tossed, I'm going to sue her for $9,000, get a judgment if I win. If I don't, I don't. And then I'm going to file a lien against her home, just as I said in my so-called nasty tapes, which are not nasty at all. It's the law."
In another taped conversation last October 6, Gina tried to press him for reimbursement of all but about $4,000 of the $87,000 she'd paid. He tap-danced deftly around that one, talking instead about a beloved horse of his, Mr. Shoes, who had died.
Mr. Soft Shoes then ambled on: "You want to make some money? Hook your wagon to me."
In writing and by phone, Gina continued to demand her case file. Then, last October 22, Karpin left her a humdinger of a voice-mail message.
He claimed the office cleaning crew had thrown out her thick case file, and there was nothing that could be done about it.