The $10,000 attorney

February 4, 2009 6:12:20 PM PST
The Investigators tracked down an attorney accused by a family of taking money for a criminal case and doing nothing. The Queens Family, desperate to prove their son innocent of murder, thought they had found the perfect attorney to help file an appeal, but then they say he essentially bolted with their money. Michael Robinson is now serving a 25 years to life sentence and an attorney may have jeopardized his last chance for an appeal.

Gertrude Robinson prays she'll live long enough to see her son Michael walk back through the front door of the family home. Fifteen years ago, he walked out in handcuffs.

Today, she is suffering with cancer.

"It is my hope it is my pray that she sees Michael before she leaves here," her sister Timolyn James said.

In 1993, Michael Robinson, then 26, was charged with stabbing to death his estranged wife, Gwen Samuels. Samuels, a home health aide, worked at a home in Bayside, Queens, with an elderly patient, who was also stabbed but survived.

The elderly woman, 88-year-old Elvina Marchon, was the sole eyewitness in the case against Michael Robinson. There was no physical evidence, no murder weapon and no blood that linked Robinson to the crime scene here.

Michael's family, who claims he was with them at home the day of the murder, later obtained medical records showing Mrs. Marchon was legally blind at the time of the stabbing, but legal appeals went nowhere.

"We've lost thousands of dollars. We've lost homes and foreclosures trying to fight for Michael's case," James said.

They finally hired attorney, Tommy Alejandro, in June of last year. He was then operating out of a location in Hempstead, Long Island.

Robinson said she gave him $10,000, but he didn't do anything and they have not heard a thing from him.

"He never went to see Michael never contacted Michael or anything," Robinson said. "He knew then I had cancer and he came in here and preyed on me."

The family even kept emails where Alejandro claimed he had left papers for Michael at his prison. We tracked the attorney down working out of an office in Kew Gardens, Queens. We sent the Robinsons in with an undercover camera. They demanded Michael's files and their money.

"You said you left papers for him at the jail, that's what you said," they are heard saying to him on the video.

"It was the wrong jail. I left it at the wrong jail, and I'm sorry," he replied.

"That's not what you said. You said, 'I left papers for Michael and I was there, I went to see him,'" they replied.

"I was embarrassed to tell you I made a mistake, and I'm sorry. I left it at the wrong place and I did go, and it was my bad. I'm sorry," he said.

He said he got mad and stopped working on the case when Mrs. Robinson filed a complaint with the disciplinary committee.

"I got angry because I said how can they file a complaint after everything I've done, and I've done a lot on this," he explained.

"So when can we pick up the transcripts and our money?" they asked.

"You can pick up the transcripts on Friday, but I'm not here to um?" he said.

"When can we pick up the check for our money?" they said.

"I don't have it. I don't have the money. I don't have it," he said.

A short time later, realizing we were staked out outside, Alejandro invited us up his office where he suddenly had a partial check waiting for the Robinsons. We still had questions.

"You've had their money for over a year. Specifically, what have you don't for the case?" I asked.

"Like I stated, I did legal research. I read pages and pages of transcripts," he said.

But he admits he filed nothing-and never visited Michael.

"I did promise to see him and that never happened," he said.

"Because?" I asked.

"No explanation. I mean there was a lot of things going on last year so it just didn't happen," he said.

"You never went to the prison did you?" I pressed.

"I went to the wrong one," Alejandro insisted.

"You went to the wrong prison, and then did you ever go to the right prison?" I asked.

"No," he responded.

"Could you explain to me what was going on last year that you couldn't communicate with them for an entire year?" I asked.

"There's a lot of personal issues. I don't think I'd like to go into now," he said. "I can't even recall right now."

"So you don't think you did anything wrong?" I asked.

"I think my miscommunication was improper," he said.

Then he promised to give back all of the money.

"Of course, I will. Of course, this is a service. I'm in a service profession," he said. "I didn't want to hurt them. It was my mistake, so I'm going to do everything I can to rectify it."

And he did, delivering two checks totaling $10,000.

"Had it not been for you and Channel 7 Eyewitness News investigating the case, we wouldn't be where we are today receiving the money back," James said.

"I don't think he even would have acknowledged me or called me. Now I see that with your help and Channel 7, this is the best thing that could have happened," Robinson said.

While she hopes to see her son come home, Michael won't be coming home anytime soon. The attorney missed the deadline for filing the latest appeal. The family did complain to the disciplinary committee a year ago, and there's been no action against Alejandro.

By the way, the attorney gave the Robinsons post-dated checks, so we don't know yet if they've cleared.

If you have any information about this or any other investigative story, call our tipline at 877-TIP-NEWS or email us directly at the.investigators@abc.com.


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