Court documents: Woman accused of impersonating a public defender arrested on fraud charges

Court documents: Woman accused of impersonating a public defender arrested on fraud charges
Ashley Crawford is accused of defending clients for the public defender's office without a license to practice law in Louisiana. (Source: Orleans Public Defenders)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - A woman accused of impersonating a public defender and practicing law without a license has been arrested on charges including public records and payroll fraud, court documents show. The charges come two months after it was revealed Ashley Crawford had been acting as a lawyer despite not having passed the bar exam.

A first appearance hearing was scheduled for Ashley Crawford Friday (Aug. 23), according to online court records, but Crawford was not brought into the court. However, Orleans Magistrate Judge Harry Cantrell ordered Crawford to be released on her own recognizance.

Court records show Crawford is currently facing four charges including practicing law without a license, filing and maintaining false public records, first-degree injuring public records and public payroll fraud.

In June, Crawford was fired from the public defenders office after it was learned that despite having earned a law degree from Loyola University, she was not licensed to practice law. According to chief public defender at the Orleans Public Defenders Office, Derwyn Bunton, their office was unaware the credentials she provided to them were not valid.

“I was perplexed at how this could happen and I’m really surprised,” Bunton. said. “We then notified everyone. We pulled Ms. Crawford out of court, and she is no longer a staff attorney in our office."

Bunton said when hiring an attorney, his office requires documentation called a “certification of good standing” to show that the person is an attorney.

“The documentation we had, we believed she was eligible to practice law in Louisiana. And it turned out, in our administrative check, that we did not have the documentation we needed,” he said.

Bunton said Crawford passed the law portion of the exam, but failed the ethics section.

She was hired by the Public Defenders office in September 2018.

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