If you were a lawyer practicing in the 1980’s you may remember the escapades of Ontario lawyers Harry Kopyto and his colleague, Angelina Codina. Harry was a rabble rouser with socialist leanings, a defender of the poor and disadvantaged, who was found in contempt of court for saying publicly that the courts and the RCMP are “stuck together like crazy glue”. Happily for Harry the Ontario Court of Appeal rejected the finding that his statement “scandalized the court”and allowed his appeal.
But Harry’s problems did not end there. In 1989 he was disbarred for fraudulently billing Ontario Legal Aid for $150,000 and he resigned himself to working as a paralegal, a profession that at the time was not regulated.
Kopyto’s bruised reputation was further damaged when his former girlfriend, high-profile immigration lawyer Angie Codina, ran into her own trouble with the law society in 1989. She was convicted of fraud in 2002, related to overbilling Legal Aid and was also disbarred. Ms. Codina continues to raise the ire of the courts in Ontario and New York State.
In a decision handed down this week, R. v. Codina #8, 2018 ONSC 2180 (CanLII), Angelina Codina was sentenced to 7 years in prison for defrauding vulnerable individuals seeking to immigrate to Canada. In once case she counselled her client to lie to immigration officials. Her crimes were committed for financial gain.
While her sentence appears stiff, the court referenced her convictions for similar offences in the State of New York. In 1996 she was charged with 28 counts, including grand larceny, scheming to defraud, and the unlicensed practice of law. She was convicted on 27 counts and sentenced to 9 to 28 years. The convictions were later set aside and after a new trial, she was sentenced to 5 to 15 years. She served 5 years and was deported back to Canada where she carried on her devious work.
The court showed no sympathy to Ms. Codina remarking that “she is a person who preys on vulnerable people”…is “a forceful personality….rarely admits her own mistakes…is fundamentally dishonest… and a revisionist historian.”
She intends to appeal, of course. As for Harry Kopyto, when Ontario passed legislation regulating paralegals he battled vigorously but was found “unfit” to remain in the profession.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang