The first clue should have been the offer to handle a bankruptcy case from start to finish for only $400. But at least 55 bargain hunters were drawn in by Michael Mancini and his fictitious Baltimore, Maryland law firm Scalia & Seidel. For five months earlier this year he filed bankruptcy petitions, schedules and other legal documents even though he’s not a licensed attorney, or even a law school graduate. Maryland authorities say Mancini’s education ended when he got his high school diploma.

If you’re going to tell a lie, might as well make it a big one. First, Mancini called himself A. Michael Scalia and claimed to be licensed in New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland, and a member of the Federal Bar Association. His phony legal credentials included a non-existent law degree from Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law and an equally-fictional undergraduate degree from the State University of New York in Plattsburgh. Mancini had an office filled with law books, to add visual credibility. His website bragged, “A. Michael Scalia is blazing a trail in the legal services field with his flat approach to fees.” Also, there is no “Seidel,” his purported partner. Seidel is the name of his deceased grandfather

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Baltimore ordered Mancini, previously known as Michael Antonio Lonardo before he changed his name earlier this year, to close up his phony legal practice, pay $261,000 in fines and penalties, and never again do business again. Of course, someone will have to find him first. Mancini did not respond to the legal action against him and missed all court appearances, leading the judge to enter a default judgment against him that includes $153,000 in fines and $108,000 in damages.

Source: National Law Journal, “Judge shutters phony law firm run by attorney-poser,” Leigh James, Oct. 23, 2012