Man charged with pretending to be a lawyer

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- When Alex Munoz needed a lawyer to help clear up several speeding tickets, a Facebook connection led him to a man named Juan Martinez, who claimed he was an attorney.

"I trusted him because he said he was an attorney and he did great at it," said Munoz, who had several speeding tickets in small Texas towns.

There was only one problem. Martinez wasn't a lawyer at all. Rather, he was a paralegal working for real attorney Maria Schnebly out her office on Richmond Avenue near the Galleria.

Schnebly says she met Martinez in a Montgomery County court room, and never thought he would use her name, nor pretend to be a lawyer.

"Absolutely not," said Schnebly.

Prosecutors though, say that's exactly what Martinez did.

Munoz said Martinez told him he took care of his traffic tickets. Munoz even deposited $900 into Martinez's bank account. The problem is, Martinez did not take care of all the traffic tickets, and Munoz only found out after a warrant had been issued. He ended up having to quit his job and his driver's license was suspended.

"Many people don't do harm, and all we're asking for is help," said Munoz, who has since gotten his driver's license back. "That's why we hire attorneys, to be our voice when we can't be a voice, in certain things."

Eyewitness News tried to find Martinez at his northwest Harris County home. He was not there when we visited, his neighbor Kerry Rocka said she and her fianc were also duped.

"My fianc needed some representation and he said he would do that for him and basically told him he was a lawyer," said Rocka. Rocka said since they were neighbors, they trusted Martinez. Later, they found out he wasn't a real attorney, and worked with Martinez's boss, Schnebly, to resolve their case.

Martinez is now facing charges of pretending to be a lawyer,while investigators look for more victims. Even Schnebly admits, she feels like she was conned.

"Betrayed. Makes me feel gullible," said Schnebly. "I really trusted him. More than anything, I thought he was my friend."

A search of court records show this isn't Martinez's first brush with the law. In 2006, he was charged with impersonating a peace officer. Court records show that Martinez had been fired from Precinct 5 Constables Office, and yet still showed up to an extra job claiming he was an employed peace officer.
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