A former legal secretary at the Waterbury law firm of Grady & Riley has been charged with stealing more than $1 million and forging dozens of checks and documents.
Barbara Kalpin, of Southington, was a longtime and trusted employee at the firm, who spent about $500,000 over the last few years at an off-track betting venue in New Haven for horse and dog racing, Waterbury police said. She wrote 93 checks from a client fund that she managed, also using the money to pay credit card bills and to finance multiple mortgages on her home.
Kalpin, who is facing two counts of first-degree larceny and 112 counts of second-degree forgery, and is awaiting arraignment next week.
Meanwhile, state Chief Disciplinary Counsel Patricia King said that the firm will be investigated. "Generally, lawyers have an obligation to supervise their staff. That's according to the Rules of Professional Conduct," King said. "At this point, I'm not in a position to say whether that duty was violated by this particular firm because I don't have all the information."
The firm's founder, Francis Grady, said that he self-reported the incident to the Statewide Grievance Committee in May. "The grievance was filed by me," Grady said. "We're sad that we've had a long-term employee embezzling money."
Grady said that the firm's partners — immediately after discovering the conduct — restored all the money to the clients' funds account. Grady said that amount was more than $700,000.
Waterbury police spokesman Chris Corbett said that Kalpin was very good at hiding the conduct. "She had a lot of authority in the law firm. She was a highly trusted employee," Corbett said.
Corbett said that police got a complaint in late May from the law firm after Kalpin went on medical leave and irregularities were noticed. "She would forge the signatures of one of the partners" on loan documents, Corbett said. Also, when using Quick Books, which is business accounting software, she would change the entries so it would appear that she was writing out legitimate checks, Corbett said. "In reality, she was writing checks to herself," Corbett said.
Corbett said the conduct started in 2008 and lasted up until this year.
When police looked at Kalpin's credit cards, they noticed that over half a million dollars went to Sports Haven in New Haven, which is an off-track betting venue for horse and dog racing. She also made more than 200 cash advances at places like the Mohegan Sun Casino, Saratoga, N.Y. (the site of a famous horse-racing track), and elsewhere, he said.
The firm, which focuses on personal injury work, retirement law, divorce and probate litigation, among other areas, was founded by Francis Grady, who has been in practice since 1969.
The firm's website states that many of the 35 staff members – including eight attorneys — have been with the firm for more than 20 years. "The majority of our 30 employees have been with the firm for 10 to 25 years, a clear sign of a good work environment and an efficient team effectively able to meet the needs of clients," the website stated.
A call to a Southington phone number for a Barbara Kalpin was not returned. Her lawyer, Richard Brown, of Hartford, did not return a phone call from the Law Tribune.