If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve watched at least some of every law lover’s favorite show: “Suits.” If you haven’t, here’s the gist of what you need to know (spoiler alert): Mike Ross, a brilliant college expellee who gets caught up in his roommate’s drug deal, impresses an interviewer for a top law firm so much that he gets offered an associate job without ever attending law school. The show makes it clear that Mike is breaking the law, but it’s not clear which laws he’s breaking. Let’s see some of the laws Mike Ross broke by looking at the story of the real-life Mike Ross, Leaford George Cameron.
Leaford George Cameron was born in Jamaica but made his fraud life in Burlington, New Jersey. Over his time posing as an attorney in Burlington, Cameron amassed over 70 clients, spanning from New Jersey all the way to India. The bulk of his clients were low-income or immigrants, and Cameron mainly dealt with immigration law.
Cameron went to what most people would consider ridiculous lengths to maintain that he was a legitimate attorney. He made fake firm names; forged business cards; created stationery with the firm name; fabricated names of nonexistent lawyers in the firm, even filing papers in their name; and used Attorney Identification Numbers from legitimate Pennsylvania attorneys to assert that he was a real lawyer. Fake firm names included Cameron and Associates, P.C. and Bernstein, Hamilton and Associates, and others. Cameron also created fake mailing addresses — ex. Suite A-1, B-2 — to make the courts and his victims believe that he had a commercial office. To avoid potential exposure to the IRS or New Jersey government, Cameron called himself a “consultant” or other lawyer-adjacent positions in his tax returns. You’d think if Cameron were willing to go to such extreme ends to create a fake attorney business, he’d at least provide a decent service, right? Wrong. In his trial, the government presented evidence that Cameron provided “substandard” services to his clients — examples include a case where one of Cameron’s clients’ home was foreclosed and another where a National Honor Society student was wrongfully deported.
Yet, somehow, none of this is the most ridiculous part of the case. The most ridiculous part about it is that Cameron did it before — two different times. In 1992, Cameron gained 36 clients before being arrested in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, and in 2014, he was convicted for impersonating an attorney after his no-contest plea. In fact, Cameron ran the phony law firm from his home while on probation for the 2014 conviction of impersonating an attorney.
When multiple of Cameron’s clients realized that they weren’t receiving valid legal counsel, Cameron’s act began to fall apart. Cameron attempted to prevent being sold out by threatening to have his clients deported, but that didn’t last. On Feb. 13, 2018, following an investigation by ICE and Homeland Security, with assistance from US Citizenship and Immigration Services, a federal jury found Cameron guilty on all counts, which included one count of mail fraud, two counts of wire fraud, and three counts of making false statements. Cameron’s sentencing came on May 31, 2018. While he faced a potential maximum sentence of 75 years and up to $1.5 million in fines, Cameron ended up being sentenced to only 12 years with three additional years of supervised release. On March 8, 2023, Cameron passed away at age 78 while serving his sentence in Philadelphia.
Cameron’s case is quite the outlier. It’s not every day that someone gets convicted for impersonating an attorney, but perhaps the most compelling part of the case was how long it took the government to stop Cameron’s impersonation: over 26 years. Cameron’s story shares some similarities with the fictional story of Mike Ross, but Ross, at the very least, still served his clients. Maybe if Cameron had provided adequate services to his client, the courts never would’ve stopped him. Nevertheless, the critical takeaway from Ross’ and Cameron’s stories is simple — it’s not a great idea to practice law without a law degree.
Luke Mallory is from Memphis, TN, studying Political Science and Philosophy