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Former Dentons Associate Michael Potere Arrested for Extortion
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Michael Potere

Summary: A former Dentons associate turned against the law firm, demanding money and artwork or else he would leak confidential documents.

Dentons had a former litigation associate turn against them. Michael Potere, 32, was arrested after he threatened to give sensitive information to the public if he wasn’t compensated. Potere joined the firm just two years ago as a junior litigation associate.

  
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Potere went to several of the law firm’s partners, demanding $210,000 and a piece of artwork from the Los Angeles office. If he did not receive that payment, he was going to provide Above the Law with sensitive documents that he had downloaded from a partner’s email account, according to a federal complaint filed with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They charged the 32-year-old with violating Title 18 of the U.S. Code Section 1951 (a), interference with commerce by threats or violence.

Potere resorted to extortion because the law firm was not willing to keep him on until he started a graduate degree program for political science in the fall. When the firm was not willing to let him keep working past June 1, he told several of the partners that he could care less about getting in trouble with the bar because he did not intend to practice law ever again. Potere believed himself to be untouchable with nothing to lose. The complaint claims that he knew the graduate program could revoke his acceptance but he was not concerned.

“I have nothing to lose, it’s already been taken,” he told some of the firm’s partners during a recorded meeting. “It’s already gone. So, and that’s just like what’s happening to me and my friends professionally all the time. And everyone gets away with it all the time.”

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Potere was not concerned about professional disciplinary issues, the bar, or his graduate program. He also wasn’t worried about going to jail. He apparently referenced how people rape others but don’t go to jail so why would he go to jail.

He gained access to the partner’s email when he was working on a case in 2015. He used that access again in 2017 to read the partner’s emails, finding one about him that made him upset. It was then that he decided to go through more emails to find confidential documents that he could download. When he had the documents, he met with partners in a meeting where he requested the money and art. During the meeting, he claimed his email was setup to automatically release the documents.



The FBI affidavit states that the emails “were between partners, quarterly financial reports, client lists, confidential reviews of associate attorneys, lists of equity partner candidates, documents describing billing rates, details of recruitment efforts, and memos describing how partners should approach clients with outstanding balances.”

Later in a recorded meeting he apparently told the partners that he had nothing to lose if he didn’t receive his settlement terms and his only objective now was to see “just how much damage I could do.”

He was arrested and spent the night in jail. He was set to appear in Los Angeles federal court today. He has public defender Asal Akhondzadeh listed as his attorney.

A Dentons spokesperson said, “We are cooperating with law enforcement and, as we do at all times, we have taken appropriate and necessary steps to protect the safety of our employees, the confidentiality of our clients, and the property of our firm. Dentons is very appreciative of the highly professional and diligent nature with which the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Attorney’s office have conducted their investigation.”

According to his Linkedin profile, before joining Dentons, Potere was with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office. He also did a clerkship in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and spent a year with Kirkland & Ellis in their Chicago office. He received his law degree in 2012 from Northwestern. He earned his B.A. from the University of Rochester in political science in 2007.

Do you think Potere should spend time in jail just because he thinks he thinks he is above that possibility and is clearly a danger to any business? Tell us in the comments below.

To learn more about why law firms need to establish tighter cybersecurity guidelines, read these articles:

Photo: linkedin.com



 

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