Con Man Posing as a Mediator Convicted of Fraud and Theft

Everyone in the mediation community needs to know the story of Gary Karpin, a disbarred lawyer from Vermont who moved to Arizona and started advertising his services as a divorce mediator.  Karpin made a habit of striking up romantic relationships with isolated, lonely, and vulnerable women in order to swindle them out of lots of money.  In the most egregious instance a woman of modest means paid him nearly $88,000 for his “mediation” services.  In the summer of 2005 he was charged with 25 counts of theft and 1 count of fraud, and last week he was convicted on all counts after a 3 month trial.


Karpin’s modus operandi was to indirectly represent himself as a practicing lawyer, having his JD degree prominently displayed in his office, explaining various legal rules and procedures, and pretending to have close professional relationships with various family court judges.  Almost every one of his clients thought he was a practicing lawyer.  Also, he often acted as the advocate for his women clients, and several men reported receiving letters and phone calls from him on behalf of their spouses.  As soon as they hired lawyers, he would wash his hands of the case.


I know several practitioners who knew he was up to something, but nobody could pin down exactly what was going on.  Hiding behind the confidentiality protections of the mediation process was a good cover for him, and even though there were some complaints to the bar association, the fact that Arizona had no civil or criminal sanctions for the unauthorized lawful practice of law kept him out of serious trouble.  When his clients started pressing him about his fees or tactics, he’d use his legal knowledge to bully and intimidate them into dropping their complaints.  Add on top of this the fact that many of his clients were embarrassed about being conned, and you have enough of a tangled web to keep the scam going for some time before it finally unraveled.  Once one of his clients finally took a firm stand and agreed to be interviewed, many others started to stand up as well.


The good thing about this con-artist is that he’s going to jail for a long time.  Unfortunately, there are probably others like him out there taking advantage of mediation’s confidentiality protections and the lack of oversight the mediation community currently enjoys.  We as a professional community need to do our best to keep our profession from being sullied in this manner – please keep your eyes and ears open to such abuses and report them to the authorities.


Here’s a link to the article in the Arizona Republic regarding his conviction:


Here’s a link to the Phoenix New Times’ in-depth article that lead to his indictment.

4 thoughts on “Con Man Posing as a Mediator Convicted of Fraud and Theft”

  1. Could this a be a sign that mediation is so successful that now con men are pretending to be mediators? (or, is this a good warning to us all about the need to police our community?)

  2. I suppose this might be an incredibly naive comment to make, but is the outrage because he did something illegal? Or is it because he didn’t do something illegal but we wish that what he did WAS illegal? I ask because, having read this blog post and the articles, I’m not sure I see any point in which he said he WAS a lawyer. He heavily implied it, sure, and morally I find that to be incredibly sleazy. But is it a crime in the state of Arizona to prepare divorce documents for people? I mean, did he sign them with a bar number or something?

    Again, while I understand the need to keep this community professional — and while the guy is without a doubt scummy for having done this — the tone of the piece seemed to imply he shouldn’t be allowed to continue working as he was because he wasn’t a lawyer, not because he was a slimeball, and I’m not sure that it’s fair to say that if it’s not actually a requirement of mediators. Of course, if it is, I’m totally off base, and I’ve just wasted several paragraphs of time 🙂

  3. The point of the story is that he used mediation as a method of bilking people out of money. He tried to charge someone $25,000 just to file their divorce paperwork (Az does have legal document preparers, and he was one). One vicitm said it felt like extortion.

    It is important to note, that he didn’t try to con everyone – just those who were the most vulnerable. Which circles back to Andrea’s question about policing our community – how’s the best way to do that?

    I think the emphasis on the lawyer angle in the newspaper articles was b/c that was something that their readership would understand. Notice that he was not charged with the unauthorized practice of law, which now has sanctions attached with it. However, his association w/ the legal profession indicates power (knowledge of the legal system), which he abused through intimidation tactics later.

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