"Dr. Buzzard" update: here's the status of the criminal case against divorce mediator-cum-scammer Gary Karpin

By Paul Rubin

Been getting a bunch of missives from folks wondering the status of the Gary Karpin criminal case. New Times readers will remember the ubiquitous north Phoenix divorce "mediator" who dubbed himself "Dr. Gary," the title referring to an alleged doctoral degree from a college in Vermont that had never even heard of him.

New Times outed Karpin in a 2005 article that inspired a full-scale investigation by the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.

That, in turn, led to his July 2006 arrest at Karpin's offices on East Shea Boulevard and two grand-jury indictments, the latter in October 2006 on 25 counts of felony theft and one count of fraud.

Forty-five alleged victims of the self-proclaimed `mediator' were named in the indictments, which encompass a time frame from August 1998 to July 2005.

The New Times article described how the glib Karpin had persuaded a disabled mother of two, Gina Niedzwiecki, to fork over almost $90,000 to process paperwork for her basically uncontested divorce that, according to lawyers and others familiar with the case, should have cost her a few hundred dollars.

To pay Karpin--whom she and dozens of other `clients' claim to have believed was a licensed attorney--she borrowed from her 401(k) retirement fund and from friends. She maxed out her credit cards and sold her house, turning the proceeds over to Karpin during a 15-month period.

In fact, Karpin was disbarred by the Vermont Supreme Court in 1992 for wrongdoing that led the high court to note that "the depth and breadth of [his] conduct is so significant and wide-ranging that he is a threat to the public, the [legal] profession, the courts and his clients."

Karpin is scheduled to go on trial in early August before Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Raymond Lee. Karpin hired an attorney after getting busted, but the two later parted ways and he has been representing himself for several months, blitzkrieging the judge and prosecutor with handwritten, often bizarre legal motions.

Karpin's main defense seems to be that his prosecution has been "politically motivated" by County Attorney Andrew Thomas, and that he earned his money legitimately while operating his lucrative business, called "Divorce With Dignity," "Divorce Associates," and other similar names.

Deputy County Attorney Annielaurie Van Wie recently asked the judge not to allow Karpin to suggest to the trial jury that her boss, Thomas, pushed the case for reasons of publicity, not justice.

"[Karpin's] characterization of the charges against the defendant as the County Attorney's pursuit of the case as a political maneuver and the defense's discussion of negative media coverage directed at the County Attorney are irrelevant and prejudicial," Van Wie wrote on June 2.

Lord knows, Andy Thomas never has seen a television camera that he didn't want to hug (in a non-felonious manner, of course). But his press conference after the Karpin indictment seemed more about community service than getting on local TV news.

So the county courthouse can expect quite a little spectacle when the Karpin criminal trial actually starts. Karpin oozes narcissism and has quite the temper. Back in 2005, he threatened one of his "clients" right in front of a New Times reporter; Karpin told the woman (now an alleged victim) he would sue her if she kept demanding a refund from him.

"You bet [I'll file suit]," Karpin practically shouted at the woman that day. "After that [State Bar] complaint that you made and the stuff you exaggerated and whatnot. The point was, I was going to wait, then get you into court, get you on cross-examination on the witness stand and cut you into little pieces, figuratively speaking."

"Dr. Buzzard," as he was dubbed in the New Times article, will get his shot at his former "clients" in court, but as a criminal defendant trying to keep himself out of the slammer, not as a plaintiff.

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin