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California attorney faces 8 to 10 years San Francisco—The jury that convicted a once-prominent attorney of defrauding clients, including low-income tenants and struggling immigrants, has issued findings that could send him to prison for up to 10 years. Nikolai Tehin, 58, of San Francisco, was found guilty of 15 counts of mail fraud, money laundering and related felonies, all linked to allegations that he spent his clients’ settlement money on himself and to pay off other clients in a Ponzi-type fraud scheme. During the six-week trial, Tehin testified that he entrusted his clients’ settlements with his bookkeeper, and that he did not knowingly cheat his clients. In separate proceedings after the guilty verdict, the jury found that Tehin caused a net loss of $1.1 million to his clients, abused his trust as a lawyer and submitted fake documents to the State Bar of California to obstruct its investigation. Under federal guidelines, each finding is a basis for an increased sentence. Tehin now faces a sentence of eight to 10 years in prison, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Miles Ehrlich. Current federal guidelines assign such findings to the sentencing judge after a guilty verdict, but the U.S. Supreme Court this month heard arguments challenging those guidelines. Anticipating that the guidelines could be struck down, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker of the Northern District of California asked jurors to make findings, based on evidence presented at the trial, that might affect Tehin’s sentence. Walker has set sentencing for Feb. 8, 2005. Tehin remains free on bail. -Associated Press Turning points Timothy Bingham is guided by a belief that he is obligated to perform mitzvahs, or good deeds. Trading in the trappings of partnership at New Haven, Conn.’s Tyler Cooper & Alcorn to become a volunteer lawyer for New Haven Legal Assistance (NHLA), he said, is just part of living up to that covenant. For Bingham, his Oct. 1 career switch came as the result of discussions between him and Tyler Cooper partner Margaret Mason, who chairs NHLA’s board of directors. The agency desperately needed, but couldn’t afford, a lawyer experienced in consumer credit matters. There are 16 other lawyers on its staff. As NHLA Executive Director Patricia R. Kaplan puts it, Bingham was “manna from heaven.” Religious by nature, Bingham’s father was Christian. His mother was Jewish. “The duty to do mitzvahs is not optional,” he said in a recent interview. “It’s mandatory, which is why you find a disproportionate number of lawyers in public service who are Jewish.” He is quick to point out that there are plenty of Christian lawyers committed to public service, too, but for Jewish attorneys it’s an ingrained part of their culture. “I figured if I’m going to do it, I might as well do it while I have some energy,” said Bingham, who is 59. Kaplan said Bingham’s decision to join NHLA will benefit the approximately 5,000 people served annually by the legal services organization. “It’s a tremendous resource for our clients to have the kind of expertise he can bring,” she said. “It’s also a wonderful model for the future and [for] other attorneys who will consider doing what he did.” Bingham’s departure from Tyler Cooper comes at both practical and philosophical turning points in his life. “One reason I made the switch [is] I’m just at the age . . . where I can take out my 401(k) money and hope I have enough funds” to live off, he said. “The lack of a paycheck is a little scary,” he admitted. For now, Bingham works out of a 7-foot-by-7-foot cubicle on State Street overlooking a wide alley, just a couple blocks away from his former, much larger, office at Tyler Cooper, which also came with a much higher income. That’s if he was making an income in his present job. (The 70-lawyer firm had estimated profits per partner of $449,000 in 2003, according to the Connecticut Law Tribune.) —ALM

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