Moving Forward After a Felony Conviction
Q: I am having a difficult time finding employment due to a felony conviction. I was a licensed chiropractor hired to work in a chiropractic practice under one condition -- that everything pertaining to ownership be put in my name. I had answered a chiropractor's ad on Craigslist. He told me he was a very religious man and he wanted to be a silent partner, so I didn't have anything to worry about. I trusted him, so I didn't hire an attorney to review the arrangement.
We agreed we would only bill for the visits where patients were treated. If the patient failed to appear for the visit, we would drop them from the books. Unbeknownst to me, the chiropractor was approached by a disreputable attorney who promised him patients. The attorney ran a fraudulent billing ring; he provided phony patients to be treated for phony accidents. The fraudulent billing spanned only a few months, but the patients had been staging phony accidents for quite some time.
Although the chiropractor was engaged in fraudulent billing, I was charged with a felony because the practice was in my name only. I was told to plead guilty even though I had no knowledge of what this doctor was doing. The attorney involved in the fraudulent billing was disbarred; the office manager was sentenced to five years in jail; the chiropractor served 50 days in jail and was ordered to pay $150,000 dollars; and I received a suspended sentence, five years of probation and 250 community service hours. I also have to repay the insurance company for the false claims and court fees. I have to check into a probation office once a month, which makes me feel like a total loser.
The chiropractic board knew the practice was not mine; I was told I could retain my license if the head chiropractor admitted he was the real owner. He refused, so I had to surrender my license. Having a felony on my record has made it nearly impossible to get a job, and I don't know what to do.
A: Everyone makes mistakes throughout their lives; some mistakes have greater consequences than others, but we all make them. The only thing you are guilty of is being naive. You need to go forward in life, so your attitude and mindset will be critical for repairing the damage. This has been a hard life lesson, but it's one you can learn from. Before entering into any business deal, always hire an independent, reputable and experienced attorney -- even if the business partner is a best friend.
The chiropractor likely had the scheme in mind when he advertised for someone to take on the liability. Had you consulted an attorney, he or she would have told you to stay away from such a person. You may still want to consult with a successful criminal attorney to see if an appeal is possible.
Though you may not be able to resume your professional career, you may be able to get a job with a small, privately owned company. Large companies can't afford the liability involved in hiring a felon. A small business owner might be willing to hire you if you are honest about the situation.
Start your job search by registering with agencies created to help those with criminal records. With professional guidance, they can guide you in overcoming the damage that has been done.
Here is a brief list of temp agencies willing to hire felons: Adecco Recruitment, ManPower Group Inc., CareerCo, Kelly Services Inc., Labor Ready Inc., Spherion Inc., Food Team and Elite Staffing Inc. Some agencies specifically helping those with criminal records include the National Hire Network, The Los Angeles Regional Reentry Partnership, the Safer Foundation and the Jobs for Felons Hub. Getting any job is the first step to becoming whole again. Some agencies also offer counseling to help people deal with the emotional upset resulting from having a felony on one's record.
No matter how bad you feel, you have a chance to start over without serving a jail sentence. The positive things may seem small, but everything counts.
Email career and life coach Lindsey@LindseyNovak.com with your workplace questions, problems, and issues. Ms. Novak responds to all emails. For more information, visit www.lindseynovak.com and for past columns, see www.creators.com/read/At-Work-Lindsey-Novak.