WET CHESTER—A suspended Downingtown attorney who left behind a trail of dissatisfied clients who accuse him of taking their money for routine legal matters and then doing little, if any, work on their cases has been arrested again.
Joshua Janis, 38, who lives on Lincoln Drive, already charged with defrauding multiple clients, has been arrested for using his ex-wife's identity to open multiple accounts and incur unauthorized debts in her name. Authorities say he spent the money on business expenses, strip club charges, and pornography. He has been charged with identity theft, forgery, and related charges.
"The defendant did not hesitate to defraud clients, colleagues, and even his wife,” said Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan. “Anybody who had any significant contacts with the defendant needs to check and determine if they were victims of the defendant’s greed."
Janis was arrested in June of this year, accused of taking money from clients of the law office of Lee A. Ciccarelli in West Chester, where he worked as staff attorney from October 2006 to December 2013, when he resigned after being confronted with evidence of his conduct.
He was arrested again in July of this year when the DA’s office filed additional charges to consolidate accusations that he had stolen money from his former law firm, charges that were filed late last month. At that time, the total amount of money that Janis is alleged to have stolen from the more than two dozen clients was estimated to be $93,241.
His wife Jennifer Hulnick-Janis, filed for separation in December, 2017, and then divorce. It was after the separation that Hulnick noticed discrepancies on her credit card, and paid for a credit report. It was then that she noticed her ex-husband had set up accounts in her name without her knowledge.
Following the divorce, Hulnick began to get bills from various accounts that she did not recognize. She then ran her own credit report and realized that the defendant had opened multiple accounts in her name and created large unauthorized expenses. Rulnick brought the information to the attention of the police, who investigated the scheme.
The police discovered that Janis had used his now ex-wife’s identity to set up accounts NetCredit, Capital One, KeyBank, Chase, T-Mobile, Bank of America, Citibank, Comcast, and AT&T.
For each account, Janis followed a similar pattern. He used Hulnick’s personal information, such as her name and social security number, to set up the account. He then used his own mobile phone number or email address as the main contact for the account, screening Hulnick from learning about the account.
Janis then ran up bills on the various accounts. He used the accounts for business expenses, bills at strip clubs, pornography, and bills related to an extra-marital affair, the district attorney’s office said.
For the Bank of America account, Janis incurred more than $20,000 in unpaid expenses in his ex-wife’s name. The other accounts have fraudulent expenses that vary from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars. In one loan account in the victim’s name, the defendant accepted an annual percentage interest rate of 98.6 percent.
Bank officials at Capital One caught on early. They terminated her account in December of 2017 after they discovered “irregular activity.”
To cover his crimes, Janis hid a mailbox key from his ex-wife, according to the affidavit of probable cause. The townhome they lived in had a locked mailbox down the street. Both had a key. But Janis told his ex-wife that he lost his mail key and he needed hers, so she stopped getting mail. He told her that only the post office could make a new key, and she never say mail for late notices, collection notices, unpaid bills and court documents from his bankruptcy proceedings.
Janis had a general law practice, handling family court matters, civil disputes, and minor criminal cases. During the course of his practice, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania received multiple complaints about Janis from clients and from President Judge Jacqueline Carroll Cody. Those complaints eventually led to his being suspension for five years from the practice of law and triggered the criminal investigation.
The investigation by county detectives revealed a simple, but ultimately unexplainable, pattern. Janis would be retained by a client to do work. The client would give him money for the case. But instead of depositing the client’s money into a trust account required for client’s money, Janis would deposit the money into his own account or otherwise take the money.
Then he would do no work, or very little, on the case, even though the matters were sometimes legally very simple and straightforward, all the while assuring the client that he was handling the matter. When the client discovered the problem, the client would have to hire another lawyer to address the problem, represent him or herself, or the problem remained unresolved.
Janis has been charged with multiple felony counts of identity theft, forgery, access device fraud, and theft. These charges will be consolidated with the pending charges against him, Hogan said.