A 73-year-old Houston man has been arrested and charged with posing as a lawyer, after Harris County prosecutors allege that he stole the identity of a real attorney, set up a fake law office and scammed dozens of would-be clients out of fees.
Police arrested John B. Kennedy late last week in his North Houston office on felony charges of falsely holding oneself out as an attorney and fraudulent use of identifying information, according to a press release from the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
Prosecutors began investigating Kennedy after the State Bar of Texas contacted the DA’s Office to report that a woman alleged she’d paid Kennedy $500 to file a divorce petition on her behalf only to later learn that he’d been previously arrested for prior scams, according to the release.
The investigation revealed Kennedy was practicing law without a license by stealing the identity of a licensed attorney named Ruben Cartwright. Kennedy advertised his services under the business name “Ruben Cartwright Law Firm” and collected fees from unsuspecting clients for legal services. However, Kennedy did not provide legal services after he got paid, according to the release.
According to the State Bar of Texas records, the only licensed attorney in the state matching the name Kennedy allegedly stole is Rueben James Cartwright of Houston. Cartwright, who graduated from Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law in 2012, could not be located for comment.
Kennedy is currently being held in the Harris County Jail on $7,500 bond and on a motion to revoke parole. He could not be reached for comment.
According to a motion to raise bond filed by prosecutors, Kennedy was previously convicted of another charge of falsely holding oneself out as an attorney and money laundering. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2012 but was released on parole three years later.
Prosecutors allege that Kennedy is a flight risk because in 2011 he failed to appear for trial in Texas and fled to Delaware. When he was arrested in Delaware, Kennedy had many legal documents with him and $851,651 in cash, according to the motion.
Ledgers recovered during the search warrant raids in the previous cases revealed that Kennedy had brought in over $400,000 in fees from legal services in 2010 alone while he was not authorized to practice law, according to the motion.
After the 2012 conviction, Kennedy attempted to assert “rightful ownership” of the money that was held in evidence by the state, cash prosecutors claimed was stolen property unlawfully acquired by Kennedy in committing his crimes. The trial court rejected Kennedy’s request to obtain the money, a decision that was affirmed by Houston’s First Court of Appeals in 2014.