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Homeless fake lawyer charged with scamming in child custody cases

A homeless Federal Way man is accused of posing as a lawyer and scamming clients for thousands of dollars.

Arnold “Arnie” Newman Jr., 55, was charged this month with four felonies: two counts of unlawful practice of law and two counts of first-degree theft. His arraignment is scheduled for June 2 at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent.

The incidents took place between September 2009 through the end of 2010, according to charging documents. The state’s Practice of Law Board investigated four complaints made against Newman, who advertised his services through a website for PAPA (Parents Against Parental Alienation). The board eventually issued a cease and desist order to Newman, who is not a licensed attorney.

Victims each paid Newman $3,000 or $3,500 to assist with family and child custody matters, according to charging papers. An investigation by Federal Way police found that Newman allegedly counseled the victims via phone and email, telling victims he had a team of experts, including an attorney, and that he had each case under control.

Newman’s original name, before changing it, was Michael Leonard. According to charging papers, victims who sought Newman’s services also spoke with someone who identified himself as Michael Leonard. Some online scam reports claim Newman used another alias, Paul Panera.

Newman is reportedly homeless and living out of his car, according to charging papers, which also list an address for Newman on SW Campus Drive in Federal Way.

One victim’s account

A Kennewick woman, who asked to remain anonymous, is one of Newman’s alleged victims. Amid a contentious and costly divorce dating back to 2005, she had grown weary of dealing with attorneys and courts. Desperate for closure, she contacted Newman last spring after finding his PAPA website. During the ordeal, she mainly dealt with Newman under his alias Michael Leonard.

“He was saying we can kind of shift the courts in my favor if I go in there representing myself through him,” she said, noting that Newman was saying all the right things that she needed to hear. “I was tired of fighting with my ex-husband ... At that point, anything is worth a try.”

She agreed to meet Newman, under the assumption he was Michael Leonard, at a restaurant in Snoqualmie. At the meeting, she paid Newman $3,500 in cash and gave him several court documents, she said.

“As soon as I paid him it was like ‘poof’ — I heard from him another time and that was it,” she said. “There were no responses to email and calls.”

The Kennewick woman was frustrated with what she described as the Federal Way Police Department’s lack of response when she first tried to report the situation. Law enforcement agencies told her to take Newman to court because “this is a civil issue,” she said. “They pretty much ignored me.”

She eventually contacted KIRO News, which aired a report in November 2010 about Newman and some of his alleged victims. A Federal Way police detective filed a report in early May after receiving the Practice of Law Board’s results for an investigation of Newman. In the report, the detective had spoken to a different victim in August who had paid for services through Newman’s PAPA website.

“I’m just trying to move on,” she said, who was pleased to learn about Newman’s charges — and accepted long ago that she would not recoup her $3,500. “I can’t believe I was that foolish to be scammed like that. It gives me a sick feeling.”

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