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Dumes v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

December 19, 2014

ERICA N. DUMES, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
STATE OF INDIANA, Appellee-Plaintiff

APPEAL FROM THE MARION SUPERIOR COURT. The Honorable Amy J. Barbar, Magistrate. Cause No. 49G02-1303-FC-15440.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: TIMOTHY J. O'CONNOR, O'Connor & Auersch, Indianapolis, Indiana.

BROWN, Judge. BAILEY, J., and ROBB, J., concur.

Page 799

OPINION

BROWN, Judge

Erica N. Dumes appeals her convictions for forgery as a class C felony and unauthorized practice of law as a class B misdemeanor. Dumes raises two issues which we revise and restate as whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain her convictions. We affirm.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Sometime in 2012, Teresa Rogers and her husband decided to divorce. Teresa reached out to her daughter for help and subsequently called Dumes. She talked to Dumes on the phone two or three times. Dumes told Teresa that she was going to file the paperwork for her and that there was a fee that Teresa had to pay. Dumes met Teresa, and Teresa signed papers

Page 800

from Dumes and gave her " two fifty or two twenty five" dollars. Transcript at 43.

In May 2012, Dumes entered the Marion County Clerk's office and told Karla Rangel, an employee at the Marion County Clerk's office, that she wanted to file paperwork including a document titled " Verified Petition for Dissolution of Marriage." State's Exhibit 2. Rangel told Dumes that she would need to view a video on being a pro se litigant, and Dumes was " aggressive" and indicated that she did not want to do that. Transcript at 19. Dumes said that she would have the attorney do the filing for her and that she would be back.

Sometime later, Dumes returned with the Verified Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and also a document titled " Appearance by Attorney in Domestic Relations" with the name of Michelle Smith as the attorney. State's Exhibit 1. Rangel file-stamped the two documents. Rangel later discovered that the attorney identification number did not belong to the attorney listed.

Indiana State Police Detective Dontonio Nibbs was assigned the case. He determined that the information on the appearance form, including the attorney identification number that did not match the attorney name, the telephone number, and the address, was not correct, and thought that Teresa, the petitioner, could have been a suspect.

Detective Nibbs went to speak with Teresa in June or July 2012. During the conversation, Teresa called a woman she identified as Dumes and at one point referred to the woman as " Erica Dumes," and Detective Nibbs recorded the conversation. State's Exhibit 5 at 6:47-6:50. During the call, Teresa asked Dumes if Michelle Smith was her lawyer, and Dumes said " that's a long story" and that she " had to put that on there" because they would not let her file it for Teresa and were telling her that Teresa had to come down there to watch a video, and that Smith was fired. Id. at 1:00-1:12. Teresa asked whether she had to go watch a video, and Dumes said no. Dumes said that she had to put Michelle Smith's name down so that Dumes could file it for Teresa and Teresa would not have to watch the video. Teresa asked whether she had a lawyer, and Dumes said that she did not have a lawyer and that she did not need one. Teresa asked: " So the law office you work for, they . . . helped you work these papers out, right?" Id. at 3:55-4:03. Dumes responded affirmatively.

Teresa gave Detective Nibbs documents that she had received from Dumes, including a document titled Decree of Dissolution of Marriage and Settlement Agreement, and a document titled Verified Waiver of Final Hearing, both of which were signed by Dumes and contained a notary public seal for Dumes but were not signed by Teresa or her husband. Detective Nibbs performed a BMV check of Dumes and found that she also had a name of Erica Stone. He contacted the Secretary of State and found that there was a notary with the name of Erica Stone but not with the name of Erica Dumes. Detective Nibbs also discovered that Dumes was not listed on the Indiana Roll of Attorneys.

After listening to the conversation between Teresa and Dumes, Detective Nibbs called the same number Teresa had called and asked the person Teresa had spoken with to ...


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