Ex-Fragomen lawyer gets six-month suspension for deceiving firm about client work

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REUTERS/Yara Nardi
  • Sara Alpert was an associate at global immigration firm Fragomen
  • She made "false assurances" to firm about completing clients' visa work, opinion says

(Reuters) - A former associate at Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy who failed to file H-1B visa applications for clients and then lied about it has been suspended from practice for six months by a New York appellate court.

The Thursday opinion said that Sara Alpert's 2019 misconduct was mitigated by her previously clean ethics record and the fact that "extreme fear" of losing her job while living with a serious congenital medical condition drove her to mislead her firm.

Alpert declined to comment on the suspension, and her lawyer, Michael Ross, did not immediately return requests for comment.

A spokesperson for Fragomen also did not respond to a request for comment Friday. An archived copy of Alpert's online Fragomen firm bio as well as her LinkedIn profile say she worked at the large immigration firm during the period when the opinion said the misconduct took place.

Alpert was admitted to the bar for less than one year when a senior associate departed Fragomen in April 2019, leaving her to handle 30 client visa updates, according to the opinion from the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division, First Department.

The opinion said Alpert falsely altered a firm database to incorrectly indicate she had filed an H-1B beneficiary's application.

Citing a stipulation by the parties, the opinion said Alpert provided "false assurances" to Fragomen, to stall for time so she could complete the application. These involved a falsified FedEx receipt and a falsified email forwarded to a colleague.

Alpert denied wrongdoing when confronted and quit on July 22.

The firm later found eight other applications Alpert had lied about submitting, which included faked signatures, the opinion said.

Alpert began working as an associate at Pryor Cashman in October 2019, according to her LinkedIn profile. The firm did not immediately return requests for comment Friday.

Court documents say she stopped practicing law in December 2020.

Alpert consented to a six-month suspension and admitted to the ethics rule violations, according to the opinion, which said her misconduct had not harmed firm clients.

Alpert has been working at manufacturing company Schaeffler Group USA Inc in a nonlegal capacity since April 2021, a spokesperson for the company confirmed. The spokesperson declined to comment on Alpert's ethics case.

The case is In re Sara Alpert, Supreme Court of the State of New York Appellate Division, First Department, No. 2021-03940.

For New York: Chief Attorney Jorge Dopico of the Attorney Grievance Committee

For Alpert: Michael Ross of Law Offices of Michael S. Ross

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Chinekwu Osakwe covers legal industry news with a focus on midsize law firms. Reach her at Chinekwu.osakwe@thomsonreuters.com.