WEST CHESTER – A lawyer dubbed the “rising star” in the Chester County legal community until clients complained about a pattern of taking their money and doing little or no work on their cases has been charged with theft on multiple occasions found guilty.
A jury of seven men and five women who heard the trial of Joshua Janis paused for about six hours before returning to Judge Patrick Carmody’s courtroom late Wednesday night with her verdict. They found Janis guilty of 27 thefts by fraud, three thefts for failure to meet required funds, and four theft counts for illicit ingestion. He was acquitted of two other thefts by fraud.
Janis, who lived and worked in West Chester, Downingtown and Exton before his bar license was suspended in 2015 due to complaints from multiple clients about his work ethic, was taken into custody by the county sheriff’s MPs after Carmody revoked his bail. He is being held in Chester County Jail.
The conviction will take place in March. Janis did not testify in his defense.
Janis, 40, faces the possibility of years behind bars in a state prison because of the scale and scope of the crimes he has been charged with. He is also facing trial before Carmody on a second set of allegations by his ex-wife and former mother-in-law who allege he fraudulently opened credit accounts on her behalf and used the cards to pursue a romantic affair and strip club bills to pay, run a private business, and buy pornography.
During the eight-day trial at the district judicial center, prosecutors provided more than 60 witnesses to prove that Janis used “lies and deceit” to carry out a “classic” system of defrauding his clients.
“He took your money and put it in his own account,” Assistant District Attorney John McCaul told jurors during his 90-minute final argument. “He told them that he would do something, knowing that he would never do it. It’s direct theft and it’s classic theft by deception. “
He would eagerly take cash or checks from prospective clients for divorce or custody matters and minor criminal offenses like underage drinking, but would then be almost entirely unavailable if these people tried to contact him about their cases or provide them with false stories about postponing Your cases are continuing or resolved. In one case, he allegedly left his office through a back door instead of meeting the family of a man who was accused in a homicide case and whom he never contacted.
On one matter, Janis told a Common Pleas County judge that his client had agreed to resolve a controversial attorney fee lawsuit brought against her by the county law firm, even if the woman instructed him not to resolve the case. The woman, Randi Kremer, owed the company more than $ 30,000 when they agreed to come to terms for lying about the settlement.
McCaul said Janis was engaged in “a long scam” that lasted over two years. It started in 2013 while working for a law firm in West Chester and ended when he was suspended from the state’s Supreme Court. Overall, the amount of money was relatively small – less than $ 100,000 – but the number of victims was large, totaling 29. McCaul said the fact that there were so many clients who became victims would allow the jury to to infer his intention.
“He’s been stealing all along,” said McCaul. “If you look at the cases all together in a row in a chain, it becomes clear that the defendant knew he was going to steal from these people.”
McCaul declined to comment on the verdict, citing DA office guidelines.
In his graduation, Ryan Hyde, Janis’ attorney, admitted to the jury that Janis had lied to his clients about the work he had done for them and had acted maliciously on multiple occasions. But he argued that this behavior, while it may be reprehensible, is not criminal.
“You need proof of his intention to defraud his former clients,” said Hyde. “He was over his head. Joshua Janis wrongly lied to these people, but he’s taken on more cases than he could handle. Was it moral? Was it ethical? But was it criminal? Being a bad lawyer is not a criminal. ”
Hyde could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
Among the witnesses that the prosecution – led by McCaul and former vice chairman Ronald Yen, who was involved in the case despite retiring in 2019 – was Bonnie Kennedy of Elverson, who paid Janis $ 2,500 for only working on a custody matter with her two sons, lying him for working on the case and stranding her in court six years ago this month.
“I am absolutely overwhelmed and so grateful to the prosecution for following up this case and the jury” for their verdict, “said Kennedy late Wednesday. She said it was “appropriate” for Janis to be in jail for the holiday season this year. “This is how I felt about Christmas six years ago, when he did what he did to me.”
Janis, 40, who used to live in East Caln but now lives in West Milford, New Jersey, was investigated by Chester County Detectives, in some cases for the same conduct, shortly after his suspension by the Supreme Court in December 2015 indicted – that is, taking money for legal representation and avoiding doing what he was asked to do.
A complaint filed against Janis by Gerald Davis, the Chester County detective, stated that the total amount Janis allegedly stole from more than two dozen customers was $ 93,241.
Janis, a graduate of Widener University School of Law, worked for the Ciccarelli law firm in West Chester from 206 to 2013, primarily handling domestic relationships and personal injury cases. From 2013 to 2015 he worked for his own law firm with offices in Downingtown, West Chester and Malvern.
Attorney Sam Stretton, who testified last week on the controversial attorney fee case, called him a “rising star” among young lawyers in the county.
But he had been fired from the Ciccarelli company for taking money from two customers that should have been paid to the company, and for paying a transfer fee from a lawyer in a civil case that should have been to the company itself Delaware received.
In his private practice, County Detectives’ handling of family court matters, civil disputes, and minor criminal cases uncovered a supposedly simple, but ultimately inexplicable pattern. Janis was hired to do the work by a client. The customer would give him money just in case. But instead of putting the client’s money into an escrow account, which is required for the client’s money, Janis would deposit the money into his own account or take the money in some other way.
Then he would do little or no work on the case, although sometimes the matter was legally very simple and straightforward while assuring the client that he was handling the matter. If the client discovered the problem, they had to hire another lawyer to solve the problem, represent themselves, or the problem remained unsolved.