By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK, Feb 15 (Reuters) - A woman whose rise through the
legal profession from law school to an English courtroom was
paved with forged letters of reference, inaccurate resumes and a
fake birth certificate was convicted Friday in state court in
Manhattan of conspiracy and forgery charges.
Soma Sengupta, 52, was found guilty by Manhattan Supreme
Court Justice Thomas Farber after a bench trial. She faces up to
seven years in prison at her sentencing, scheduled for next
"One could not help but be struck by the sheer magnitude,
intensity and breadth of the defendant's lies, schemes and
behavior," Farber said in delivering his verdict.
Her defense lawyer, James Kousouros, said he would appeal.
In 2000, she applied for a paralegal position with the
Manhattan district attorney's office, despite having graduated
from Georgetown Law School and having been admitted to the New
The DA's office does not employ admitted attorneys as
paralegals, and so she claimed she had not completed her degree,
prosecutors said. Kousouros said Sengupta wanted to work in
public service but may have felt she couldn't get a job as an
assistant district attorney.
She lost her job in 2003 when the DA's office became aware
that she was an attorney and volunteered with the Legal Aid
Society for several years.
In 2007, she set her sights on becoming a barrister in
London. According to prosecutors, Sengupta and her husband,
Manuel Soares, manufactured letters of reference from various
people, including Assistant District Attorney Melissa Paolella,
who had previously provided her with such letters when she was
seeking jobs in New York.
One of the letters purported to come from a Georgetown
professor, Robert Drinan, who had died before the date on the
letter, according to the district attorney's office.
Sengupta also created websites and false email addresses to
help back up her references and forged a birth certificate and a
law school transcript to reflect her doctored resume,
prosecutors said. She also claimed she had worked as a Manhattan
prosecutor and as a staff attorney at Legal Aid, prosecutors
Sengupta was accepted by one of four Inns of Court in
London, a necessary step to gain admission to the English bar.
She was also accepted to a training program for prospective
lawyers with the firm 1 Inner Temple Lane.
She was charged in 2010 with conspiracy, filing false
instruments and possessing forged documents after the Manhattan
district attorney's office learned that she had claimed to be a
former prosecutor and that the forged documents passed through
Manhattan. Prosecutors leveled the same charges against
'LIE UPON LIE'
"For 10 years, this defendant piled lie upon lie, until the
tower of deception she built finally fell in upon itself,"
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in a statement
following the verdict.
During the six-week trial, Kousouros did not dispute that
Sengupta had forged documents and lied about her professional
Instead, he argued that the case should be thrown out on
technical grounds, including whether letters of reference fall
within the definition of false instruments under the law and
whether prosecutors improperly conflated multiple separate
conspiracies into a single charge.
He said after the verdict that he would base his appeal on
"It has always been our position that notwithstanding the
facts, the charges brought were simply legally untenable,"
The case against Sengupta's husband, Soares, is pending.
Soares' lawyer, Allan Brenner, could not be reached for comment
The case is People v. Sengupta, New York State Supreme
Court, New York County, No. 5819-2010.
For the prosecution: Assistant district attorneys Tracy Conn
and Craig Ascher.
For Sengupta: James Kousouros of The Law Offices of James
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