A man who isn't a lawyer but has operated a "legal services corporation" that offers legal, investment and tax services to paying customers was arrested Thursday after being indicted on 12 federal fraud and theft charges, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced Friday.
Malik Akbar'El, 52, of Little Rock was indicted Jan. 9 by a federal grand jury on nine counts of mail fraud and single counts of making false statements to the FBI, theft of government monies and attempted bank fraud. The indictment remained sealed until his arrest.
Also known as Tyrone David Williams and Skipper David Williams, Akbar'El began soliciting people in 2016 to invest money with his company, promising them they could make a profit equaling as much as a 300% to 480% return each year, according to the indictment and a news release issued by Rutledge. The announcement was made in coordination with the FBI and the Cooperative Disability Investigation Unit, a federal, state and local cooperative effort that started operating in October 2015.
It says Akbar'El acquired 252 investors who sent him $644,331.22 to invest, but that less than $92,000 of the money was invested.
"While operating the apparent Ponzi scheme, Akbar'El also was collecting Social Security disability benefits totaling nearly $24,000," Rutledge said. "The joint investigation also revealed that [he] attempted to deposit a fraudulent check for nearly $26,000 from the National September 11 Memorial and Museum fund. Akbar'El told the Telcoe Federal Credit Union teller the check was a settlement associated with his mother."
Akbar'El has never been a licensed attorney, but has operated Akbar Williams & Associates Legal Services Corp. since 2012, according to the indictment.
In 2017, the Arkansas Securities Department entered a cease-and-desist order against him and his companies to stop him from recruiting people to invest money with him under false pretenses.
In 2018, the Arkansas Supreme Court Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law brought a lawsuit against Akbar'El in Pulaski County Circuit Court, after documenting three years' worth of complaints about his operations. The committee sought an injunction against Akbar'El, which Circuit Judge Chip Welch granted, formally barring him from continuing to practice law.
In response to the lawsuit, Akbar'El denied ever holding himself out as a lawyer and said he had done nothing wrong. He wrote, in response to the suit, "I help people that cannot afford lawyers to understand their legal rights. ... I have never practiced law, I only work from a Power of Attorney which makes me an Attorney in Fact."
In 1995, Akbar'El was convicted of theft by deception and writing hot checks based on separate complaints that he had posed as an insurance agent and sold bogus car insurance to a woman in 1993 and that he had written about three dozen hot checks totaling more than $1,400 between April 1993 and March 1994, according to an earlier report. It said he was convicted of writing hot checks again in 2000, this time involving 11 checks worth $1,764.
Friday's news release said Akbar'El is accused of lying to an FBI agent during the course of the investigation by saying he was paying an employee to assist him. It says the investigation found that in reality, the person was in a relationship with Akbar'El and had signed a contract agreeing to be paid part of his income for five years through a monthly Walmart gift card.
The release says that when Akbar'El was arrested on the federal warrant, he was also arrested on a felony probation revocation out of state court and a failure-to-pay violation from Crawford County. He was arrested with assistance from the Little Rock Police Department and is being held in the Greene County jail.
The news release describes the Cooperative Disability Investigation unit as a cooperative effort led and funded by the U.S. Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General. Its mission is described as "to combat fraud by investigating questionable statements and activities of claimants, medical providers, interpreters or other service providers who facilitate or promote disability fraud."
Rutledge's office has two special agents and an analyst assigned to the unit.
Metro on 01/18/2020