By Joe Mandak
Pittsburgh (AP) — A woman used forged documents to pose as an estate lawyer for a decade and made partner at her small firm before her fraud was discovered.
Kimberly Kitchen was charged March 26 with forgery, unauthorized practice of law and felony records tampering.
State prosecutors contend Kitchen fooled BMZ Law by forging a law license, bar exam results, an email showing she attended Duquesne University law school and a check for a state attorney registration fee. The firm is based in Huntingdon, about 110 miles east of Pittsburgh.
Kitchen, of nearby James Creek, handled estate planning for more than 30 clients “despite never having attended law school,” the attorney general’s office said. She even served as president of her county bar, her lawyer said.
“She’s an incredibly competent person, and she worked very diligently and was devoted to the people she served,” lawyer Caroline Roberto said. “There are things about the charges we don’t agree with.”
The Huntington County Bar Association’s current president, Christopher Wencker, called the charges insufficient given “the level of betrayal” over 10 years. Local lawyers were the first to raise questions about Kitchen’s credentials.
BMZ Law didn’t immediately return calls seeing comment Friday. But in December, when the Huntingdon Daily News first reported on the case, the firm vowed to review her work.
“Sadly, it would appear that our firm was the last, in a long line of professionals, to have been deceived by Ms. Kitchen into believing she was licensed to practice law,” the firm’s statement said. “We are undertaking a thorough review of each and every file she may have handled.”
Kitchen, 45, previously was employed at Juniata College, where she worked in fundraising but “started holding herself out to be a lawyer,” Senior Deputy Attorney General George Zaiser said.
Kitchen, who is married to a state conservation ranger, is no longer working, her lawyer said.
“Since December, when she was asked not to practice again, she’s just been waiting for this to be resolved,” Roberto said.