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Man pleads guilty to count of practicing law illegally

An Albion man pleaded guilty Monday to passing himself off as a lawyer to the elderly mother of a longtime Buffalo friend, charging her for prepaid legal services for the last nine years and bilking her out of $7,800 in a Buffalo property deal.

James Mays, 42, of East State Street, Albion, was allowed to remain free without bail after he pleaded guilty before Buffalo City Judge Kevin J. Keane to two misdemeanor counts of fourth-degree grand larceny and a single misdemeanor count of practicing law without a license.

Mays, who technically faces up to two years of local jail time on the charges, was not given a sentencing commitment in advance of his Sept. 8 sentencing.

Both Mays and his attorney, Robert Baron, declined to comment following the midmorning court proceedings.

At the demand of prosecutors David A. Heraty and Gary M. Ertel, the judge made Mays sign a confession of judgment for the full amount he collected from the woman and issued an order of protection threatening him with another year in jail should he try to contact her.

After the court session, the prosecutors said Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III ordered an investigation after he was contacted several months ago by friends of the victim.

Mays collected $4,800 in monthly payments from the woman after passing himself as a lawyer in late 2002, and he made another $3,000 off her on a recent purchase of a property on East Ferry Street.

Mays, who for years has known his elderly victim's son, a minister at a Buffalo church, contacted the woman in 2002, saying he was a licensed lawyer who could provide legal assistance anytime she needed it under a "prepaid legal services" deal, the prosecutors said.

The court session marked Mays' first appearance on the case, though he and his lawyer had been aware of the ongoing investigation for some time, Heraty and Ertel said.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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