Las Vegas police are investigating the business relationship between longtime lawyer Lizzie Hatcher and the owner of an unlicensed process serving company charged in a scheme to submit false court affidavits.
Detectives are trying to determine whether Hatcher, 56, knew about the scheme linked to Maurice Carroll and his company, On Scene Mediations, and whether she has been truthful to authorities about the extent of her professional dealings with Carroll, Intelligence Lt. Dave Logue said.
Following a police raid at Carroll's North Las Vegas home in July, Hatcher told detectives and judicial officials she never employed Carroll to serve court papers for her. But in letters obtained by the police and the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Hatcher identifies Carroll as her employee.
Logue said detectives are trying to sort out Hatcher's conflicting statements as they decide whether to seek charges against Hatcher in the ongoing criminal investigation into Carroll's activities.
An unsuccessful candidate for a Las Vegas Justice Court seat in 2004, Hatcher also could face discipline by the Nevada State Bar. It is against bar rules of professional conduct for a lawyer to engage in "dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation," or to make false statements to judicial officers.
A member of the bar since January 1983, Hatcher has not responded to requests for comment.
Assistant Bar Counsel Phil Pattee said the lawyer's group has not received a complaint against Hatcher, and Chief Deputy District Attorney Mike Staudaher said police have not submitted a case against Hatcher.
Carroll, 41, a former Las Vegas police officer, and his office manager, Vilisia Coleman, 46, have been charged with perjury and filing false documents in the courthouse affidavit scheme.
They are accused of lying in the affidavits when swearing they had served defendants with copies of court papers on behalf of debt collection agency Richland Holdings.
The company obtained default judgments after the defendants failed to respond to the lawsuits.
Whether Carroll worked for Hatcher could have an impact on whether to prosecute her in the affidavit scheme.
In a July 7 interview with detectives, a day after the police raid, Hatcher acknowledged she knew Carroll through members of his family.
But Hatcher denied hiring Carroll to serve court papers for one of her former clients, Rapid Cash, a Kansas-based payday loan company with operations in Las Vegas.
"I was hired by Rapid Cash to do various complaints ... and Maurice was the person who was doing the service,'' Hatcher told police, according to a transcript obtained by the Review-Journal.
"So, was he ever directly employed by you?" a detective asked.
"No," Hatcher replied.
"He was, as to your knowledge, contracted and employed by Rapid Cash?"
"Yes, he was."
And in a July 12 letter to Las Vegas justices of the peace, Hatcher wrote, "If there is a belief by anyone that I am the employer of On Scene Mediations/Maurice Carroll, it is a mistaken belief. I have never employed On Scene Mediations/Maurice Carroll or anyone working for them."
But in a letter on her office stationery dated Oct. 6, 2006, and addressed "to whom it may concern," Hatcher wrote that Carroll's company "is now an employee of the law offices of Lizzie R. Hatcher. ... Effective immediately, all invoice payments are to be made payable to Lizzie R. Hatcher at the above address."
Rapid Cash lawyer Mark Dzarnoski said records show the company paid Hatcher directly for Carroll's services for at least two years, starting in October 2006.
He said Rapid Cash was "under the belief" that Carroll was an employee of Hatcher's law firm.
Rapid Cash gave police copies of invoices dealing with Hatcher and On Scene Mediations dating to 2006, Dzarnoski said.
Sean Hillen, another attorney who has handled Rapid Cash cases, said he understood Hatcher was "overseeing all of the process serving being handled by On Scene Mediations."
Hillen said another client, Budget Loans, regularly paid On Scene Mediations through Hatcher after receiving Hatcher's "to whom it may concern" letter.
Hatcher began to distance herself from Carroll as he came under scrutiny by court officials.
In a March 19 letter to Rapid Cash, she wrote that she had "heard through the grapevine" that Justice of the Peace Diana Sullivan was "reviewing" some 400 default cases Hatcher had filed for the company, and that the judge was questioning whether Carroll was a licensed process server.
"I have been telling people that Maurice works for me," she wrote. "However, my husband, who has a security company, went to a state meeting where it was stated that the state does not approve of that, and I would have to make quarterly reports and pay fees. I am not interested in doing that, so I can no longer tell people that Maurice works for me."
Then, in an April 22 letter to Rapid Cash officials, Hatcher said Carroll's "last date of doing work for me" was May 3.
"I extended his time of working for me in order for him to finish doing work I had already given to him," she wrote.
On May 6, police met with Justice Court officials who had uncovered the false affidavit scheme.
Contact Jeff German at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-8135 or read more courts coverage at lvlegalnews.com.