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A secretary from the Washington, DC office of Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom is pleading guilty to stealing $1m (£671,000) from a partner at the firm.
Farnaz Farzaneh fraudulently stole money from partner Lynn Coleman, who has headed the firm's energy practice for 20 years, while working for him. Farzaneh worked in the firm's DC office for nine years until last June, when she was discovered and reported to the police. She took the money by routinely forging Coleman's signature on his personal cheques after writing cheques to herself. She also paid off her credit cards with cheques drawn on his account. Farzaneh used some of the stolen money to buy home improvements and furnishing. One of her credit cards was at the department store Bloomingdale's. Most of the cheques were for around $5,000 (£3,390), and Farz-aneh covered up what she was doing by writing "void" in Coleman's cheque register and then intercepting his bank statements. Skadden Arps DC managing partner Michael Rogan told The Lawyer: "Skadden Arps reported the matter to the US attorney's office and the FBI and fully cooperated in the investigation. The case is now in court and Skadden Arps will not be commenting to the press while the case is pending." Farzaneh's scheme was discovered by the firm when Coleman found out last year that his bank, First Union, had charged his cheque account for overdrafts, even though it had carried on honouring the cheques. The firm then carried out an audit and discovered a raft of cheques were missing before confronting Farz-aneh. During an interview she signed a statement admitting to the thefts. Under the terms of a plea agreement, the US Depart-ment of Justice said that she was "required to forfeit her personal and real property, including her residence, in order to pay full restitution in the matter". It added that she faces a five-year statutory term of imprisonment, a $250,000 (£169,490) fine and a three-year term of supervised release. One of Farzaneh's responsibilities was to prepare and reconcile cheques written on Coleman's personal cheqeuing account, but she did not have authorisation to sign his name on cheques written on the account. Coleman is one of the firm's most senior partners in the DC office. Before joining Skadden Arps he was general counsel of the US Department of Energy and later made deputy secretary.