Marcus Moore has had his share of lawyers, so when he sought representation from Tahir Malik on nearly two dozen traffic and misdemeanor offenses, Moore didn't think it was necessary to question his credentials.
"He sounded like an attorney. He met with the state's attorneys before the judge came out, all that," said Moore, 29. "He walked around the courtroom like he was a hotshot, strutting around, you know. That really made me think the guy was a lawyer."
What Moore didn't know was that Malik apparently never spent a day in law school. But he knew his way around a courtroom because of his own lengthy arrest record, authorities believe.
Malik, 47, of Skokie, was charged Friday with posing as a lawyer while representing Moore and another client. He had already been charged last month with impersonating a lawyer in a third case.
But authorities believe he represented dozens of clients in recent years. Records found in Malik's possession last month connected him to at least 60 clients, they said.
"No one suspected anything for years because he did everything right — except obtain a law degree," said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart. "From his own arrest history, he was familiar enough with the court system to make certain motions and file certain documents with this court."
Authorities alleged that Malik charged clients $500 to $4,500, depending on the type of case he was handling.
Malik's father, Rahim, said Friday that his son has been out of work for several years. Malik, his wife and son have been living with him, the father said.
"He knows the system, (but) he doesn't know the ABCs of the law," said the father, 76, who believes his son might have picked up some of his legal knowledge from watching television.
Nonetheless, Rahim Malik insists his son was only trying to help people.
Cook County sheriff's department investigators said Malik had been involved in dozens of traffic, mortgage foreclosure and low-level criminal cases in two suburban courthouses and the Daley Center.
Moore said he met with Malik at a Subway restaurant in Rogers Park in the spring of 2009 after learning of him from an inmate at Cook County Jail.
"At the time, I was fighting 19 cases and he told me to give him $4,500 and he'd get them all thrown out," Moore said.
In the end, Moore said, Malik took care of only one case by having him plead guilty to driving on a revoked license. He was sentenced to work 40 days in a sheriff's program designed for defendants to avoid jail.
By Matthew Walberg and Jeremy Gorner, Tribune reporters
Source: Chicago Tribune