Attorney Sentenced for Stealing Upper Saucon Man's Identity
Robert Wilkey receives 36 months' probation for betraying his former client's trust
Chester County attorney Robert Wilkey's voice shook and he at times began to cry as he told a Lehigh County judge of his remorse for stealing the identity of a former client at a sentencing hearing this morning.
Wilkey attributed his decision to use Upper Saucon Township resident Marco Orellana's credit card information to a gambling addiction, for which he said he has since sought treatment.
"My life at the time had become involved in one thing; namely, gambling," Wilkey told Judge William H. Platt during the hearing. "To my detriment, it became my life, my obsession and my pride."
When his gambling losses began to mount, instead of confessing his behavior to his wife he instead decided to use Orellana's personal credit card information, he explained.
In February 2009, Orellana contacted police to tell them he believed he had become a victim of identity theft.
According to the Lehigh County District Attorney's office, Orellana became suspicious when he was notified that applications had been completed for a credit card in his name.
Police eventually traced the applications to Wilkey using Internet provider addresses and analysis of one of Wilkey's computers, which he used while employed at a Conshohocken law firm.
After Wilkey learned of the police investigation, he contacted Orellana and attempted to make amends with him; a move Wilkey's attorney, Kimberly Makoul, admitted cast her client in a less-than-flattering light.
"I know that's troubling to a lot of people," Makoul said of Wilkey's decision to contact and meet with Orellana.
But, she said, Wilkey was not thinking clearly at the time, because "he was still…in the midst of his gambling addiction."
"He was trying to right a wrong in a bad way. He didn't think it through," she added.
Wilkey told Judge Platt that he is aware of how much pain and suffering he has caused not only his victim, but also his wife, friends, family, employers and church.
Since the summer of 2009, when he first admitted wrongdoing, he has attempted to turn his life around by seeking treatment for his gambling addiction, he added.
"I have done everything in my ability and power to remedy the harm done to Mr. Orellana," Wilkey told the court.
Because he has sought professional treatment, has attended Gamblers Anonymous meetings, fully cooperated with the police in their investigation and had no prior criminal record, Makoul asked Judge Platt to sentence Wilkey to probation.
Sentencing him to jail would only jeopardize the recovery he's made so far, she said.
"Mr. Wilkey is rehabilitated and will be in rehab for the rest of his life," Makoul stated. "As long as he is on the road to rehabilitation the community is protected."
Chief Deputy District Attorney V. Paul Bernardino, representing the Commonwealth, argued that Wilkey's betrayal of his client's trust made his crime more egregious.
Protecting clients' personal information "is engrained in everyone that acts in a fiduciary responsibility," Bernardino told the court. "Mr. Wilkey turned around and broke that fiduciary duty…which aggravates his conduct."
Bernardino also criticized Wilkey for contacting the Upper Saucon Township Police Department with a request that they drop their investigation of him early on.
"He was covering his butt," Bernardino told the court.
"I believe that jail time is appropriate in this matter (and) I would ask the court to sentence him appropriately," the district attorney concluded.
Judge Platt, who called the three counts of identity theft to which Wilkey pleaded guilty "extremely serious," sentenced him to 36 months of probation and ordered him to pay $3,750 in fines.
In addition, Wilkey will be required to remain involved in Gamblers Anonymous and will be barred from having any direct or indirect contact with Orellana.
"You made a grave mistake. However, you have made significant progress," Platt told Wilkey. "I believe jail in this case would interfere with that."
Wilkey is currently working as a paralegal at a law firm which has "safeguards in place to make sure that there are no further breeches," Makoul said.
The Coatesville resident has also agreed to a voluntary suspension of his license to practice law pending the outcome of disciplinary proceedings against him.
"He suffers every day," Makoul said of Wilkey.