Officials in eight states announced the results of a sting operation over the weekend that netted more than 230 attorneys and over 400,000 black market CLE credits, making it the largest CLE credit bust in the nation’s history, surpassing one in California earlier in the year that seized more than 350,000 credits.
As officials describe it, the operation involved complex and high-tech forgers as well as tunnels between Virginia and Maryland where lawyers would smuggle credits, some as large as 12 credits for a two-day tax law institute. Once on the street outside courts in Baltimore, a single elimination of bias or ethics credit would bring in up to $300, depending on accompanying documentation.
Black market CLE credits have plagued the industry since 2005, when lawyers began to sell low-end office management credits through eBay and Craig’s List. With increasing demand for valuable “specialty credits,” such as ethics and diversity initiative credits, organized crime syndicates began to enter the market to gain a share of potentially significant profits.
With proper documentation, black market CLE street credits eliminate the pretense that you actually attended a seminar, freeing up valuable time otherwise required to pick up conference materials.