Bad Lawyers

Attorney Nichole A. Collins Charged with Embezzlement and Burglarizing
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Nichole A. Collins

Summary: An East Shore attorney has been accused of embezzling and burglarizing her own law firm, among other charges.

East Shore attorney Nichole A. Collins had more charges filed against her related to embezzling and burglarizing her own law firm. The additional 20 criminal charges filed by investigators put her legal problems into a new category, according to Penn Live.


Nichole Collins

Collins, formerly of Shaffer & Engle, had the new charges added to the original charges of burglary, theft, forgery, receiving stolen property, access device fraud, and criminal mischief filed by the state attorney general’s office in January. They are pursuing the case since Collins’ husband, Joel Hogentogler, is the deputy district attorney for Dauphin County. They referred the case to state investigators to handle.

The new charges filed Tuesday came when the 35-year-old attorney waived her preliminary hearing for the original charges. This sent that case to Dauphin County Court where she is set for arraignment in June. Special Agent Jessica Eger explained the cases filed with District Judge James A. Lenker. Eger said the charges include one count of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds, one count of impersonating a notary, one count of tampering with public records, one count of performing an action in furtherance of a false pretense, one count of unlawful use of a computer, one count of misapplication of entrusted property, two counts of receiving stolen property, two counts of securing execution of documents by deception, three counts of theft by unlawful taking, four counts of identity theft, and four counts of forgery.

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Investigators believe the crimes were committed last year when she had been with Shaffer & Engle for almost three years. Collins would make false claims of legal expenses to the firm but pocketed the money. Eger said an example of this is a $385 check that Collins would write out to her husband but record in the firm’s cost account ledger as a check written to Lebanon County prothonotary. She did this at least 14 times.

Another example was an entry Collins made in the cost account ledger for the filings of divorce papers for a client but the client was not even married. The law firm’s principals, Jeff Engle and Elisabeth Pasqualini confronted Collins about it. She allegedly told them they should add $850 to the amount they thought she had stolen.

Another accusation against Collins is that she forged the signature of the opposing attorney’s client during divorce proceedings so his property could be sold for $30,000 less than he was seeking. She forged his signature and then used her law firms in-house notary stamp.

In other instances. Collins did not turn over payments clients made to her. One client claimed Collins told her she would get a double payment credit if she gave Collins a partial payment in cash. Collins was taking payments from clients but failing to deposit the money into the firm’s accounts even though she was marking the clients’ accounts as paid in full, although some clients still owed thousands of dollars to the firm. Eger noted a time that a client gave Collins $5,500 in cash so she marked his account as paid even though he owed $12,781.

Shaffer & Engle claim they have lost $97,000 from payments they should have received from clients. Collins made about $32,500 from the scheme.

Do you think Collins should ever be allowed to be an attorney again? What kind of punishment should she get? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

To learn more about attorneys accused of stealing, read these articles:

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