Prosecutor David Leyton called a 3 p.m. press conference on Tuesday in Flint to announce charges against the attorneys from Oakland County.
Leyton was joined by Genessee County Sheriff Christopher Swanson to discuss the multiple felony charges including racketeering, forgery, and obstruction of justice.
The three attorneys, all part of the Fishman Group in Bloomfield Township, were identified as Ryan Fishman and Alexandra Ichim - both charged with racketeering, 30 counts of forgery, and one count of obstruction of justice. Ryan's father, Marc Fishman, is charged with maintaining a criminal enterprise and one count of obstruction of justice.
The three attorneys would attempt to serve people as debt collectors, Leyton said, and when process servers didn’t serve them they forged documents to say the defendants were served. Leyton said they’d then use the courts to attempt to gain damages from people who didn’t even know they were served. Then the wages would be garnished from the defendants, Leyton said.
"These lawyers put a dagger in the heart of due process and victimized some of the most vulnerable people in our state," said Leyton.
According to Swanson, the three attorneys were "professional debt collectors".
Swanson showed a sample of paperwork filed by the attorneys and said they would copy and paste information from documents that were legitimately served and paste it into documents that were not properly served and then submit that information to the court.
"It's greed. It's simple greed," said Swanson. "If it wasn't for the courage of these victims and witnesses to come forward, we might not be here as soon as we are."
Swanson said that many plaintiffs would be told by the attorneys that the wages were not able to be collected. In fact, Swanson said, the attorneys did collect the money but they didn't turn it over to the client.
If you think you've been a victim of the Fishman group, you're urged to gather your paperwork, write a statement, make copies, and submit it to the Genesee County Prosecutor.
"We don't know how big this is, we don't know how long it's been. We do know it's up to 1,000 victims," said Swanson, saying that there are cases in Kalamazoo County and other counties as well.
Leyton said the first case goes back to at least August of 2019.
The racketeering charge is a 20-year felony, forgery is a 14-year felony for each count, and obstruction of justice is a 5-year felony.