The exhibits below are additions to the book. Click on the button below for more information.
In this email, Aaron affirmed the list of decisions requiring unanimity, including cash distributions and the one exception. ‘Expenditure in excess of 10k’ required my consent, meaning Aaron could authorize any expenditure under $10,000. Aaron lied under oath at least three times when he said he had the authority to write off fees, withhold fees, and take owners’ draws of less than $10,000 from NWMJ Law. Ignorance of the law is dangerous, none of these are classified as expenditures. The Bar Association refused my explanation of this, and the Prosecutor felt a jury would not understand.
After affirming to Lily that he understood the limitations of his authority, on April 15, 2016, Aaron emailed and called me to force the issue of his needing fifty-one percent, stating, “But giving me 51 was something that made me feel safe and that meaningful gesture of trust made me feel comfortable leaving my practice (and identity) and joining yours. Is this an issue for you?” The Prosecutor accepted and Bar Association defended Aaron’s running Pelley Law in secret for two years.
This is a report from Clio showing that Aaron altered the West Green Budz invoices each month after I reviewed and approved them. In all future testimony, Aaron claimed that West Green Budz was a pro bono client, but Aaron never identified West Green Budz as pro bono and agreed several times during the partnership to call and collect past due payments from West Green Budz. The total invoiced amount of work done over two years was approximately $56,000. Washington RPC 8.4 states that “It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to: (c) engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation;” The Bar Association accepted Aaron’s lie that he was authorized to write off fees under the Operating Agreement, and the Bar Association ignored that for two years, Aaron hid his fraud from the firm, accountants, and me.
This email was in August 2016. I found it in Clio. Cindi tells Aaron, ‘Make this guy give you a couple thousand for your trouble and take that money and blow it on your vacation or buy Autumn something special.’ Aaron testified both that he told Cindi that he shared fees with NWMJ Law and that he held fees outside NWMJ Law.
Over time, $25,755.09 was deposited in the Pelley Law Bank of America IOLTA account that Aaron opened on May 17, 2016, more than a month after he agreed to transfer all assets of Pelley Law to NWMJ Law. I provided the Bar Association with the BofA IOLTA statements and Aaron testified that he kept no records for this IOLTA, a violation of the Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15A and 1.15B. The Bar Association has all the Bank of America records but dismissed the multiple RPC violations of trust funds.
One example of an NWMJ Law fee that Aaron stole is a client Aaron met before the acquisition and brought to NWMJ Law, Sungui. The client signed a Fee Agreement and paid $12,000 for services. The fee was never deposited in an NWMJ Law account. Aaron altered the invoice to show it as paid. On May 27, 2016, $12,000 was deposited in the Pelley Law Bank of America checking account. The Bar Association refused to weigh in on this, saying it was a civil dispute.
This is a Clio report listing all known NWMJ Law bank accounts. While Aaron testified that I knew of the Bank of America bank accounts, they never appeared in our firm tracking. And in Exhibit 19, Aaron lied to Nancy saying the accounts were for a different entity and not an asset of NWMJ Law. (See Exhibit 2, where Aaron says ‘leaving my practice (and identity) and joining yours’.)
In this email I found on the Porsche drive, Girard asks Aaron for the NWMJ Law letterhead file. It is dated three weeks after Girard was fired from NWMJ Law on August 24, 2016. Later communications show that Girard used this to create Fee Agreements and receipts for payment. Aaron continued to work with Girard and provided Girard access to NWMJ Law client files and communications. The Bar Association dismissed Aaron’s numerous RPC 1.6 violations of client confidentiality. During Arbitration, I discovered that in the first few weeks of March 2018, Girard was compensated $87,000 by Cultiva Law.
This email I found on the Porsche drive from Girard, three months after he was fired from NWMJ Law. Aaron supplied Girard with a contract containing confidential client information of a client who was signed after he was fired, such that Girard had no confidentiality obligation to this client. The Bar Association dismissed Aaron’s violation of RPC 1.6 on client confidentiality.
This email is from Elizabeth, the NWMJ Law paralegal. She asks Aaron, ‘I am in the process of sending November invoices. Do you have [Kenneth’s] email address? I could not find any record of it in the google drive or Clio.’ Aaron responds, ‘[Kenneth] is coming to the office on Saturday, so you can email that one to me also.’ There were minimal Clio records for these clients, flat fee invoices, calendar entries, Aaron’s expenses for a trip to Mitch’s hearing in Eastern Washington, and Google Drive had some stray court filings, but Aaron kept the contact emails out. Aaron prevented there being any record that NWMJ Law billed these clients. Aaron routinely deleted any email that he did not elect to place in NWMJ Law’s firm records, Elizabeth followed firm protocol and this email was in Clio.
This is Mitch’s voided Clio invoice. After Aaron delivered and collected the two $10,000 fees for Mitch and Kenneth, he voided the two invoices such that they would never appear in the accounts payable reports in Clio. These fees were never deposited in an NWMJ Law account. Peter, the Certified Fraud Examiner and PI, spoke directly to Mitch and Kenneth. Peter verified that Mitch’s and Kenneth’s fees were paid in cash, a receipt was given to Mitch, and no refund was ever made to either. Aaron’s expert CPA report for the Arbitration stated that Aaron offered to refund the fees to these clients; it does not state that he did. Aaron testified under oath that he did these cases pro-bono and the Bar Association accepted Aaron’s lie that he was authorized to write off fees without my consent.
Aaron demanded that everyone at NWMJ Law file all client emails into Clio, stating, ‘I just want to clarify that tracking communications in Clio is not optional. We need to have records of full communications with Clients, and it needs to be in Clio. Thanks.’ For two years, Aaron systematically filed select emails and then deleted every other email he received or sent. After his removal from NWMJ Law, he made an illegal entry to NWMJ Law’s Applemail and deleted all emails under three addresses: aaron@nwmjlaw, aaron@[new firm name], and dick@[new firm name]. The only emails I recovered after Aaron left were on Porsche Drive and from his last thirty days at NWMJ Law. The Bar Association and Prosecutor failed to prosecute these violations of RPCs and WA RCWs.
This email from Aaron to me shows that with NWMJ Law clients, we notified each other in writing when we legitimately wrote off fees. Aaron lied under oath at least three times and stated to the Bar Association that he was authorized to write off fees without my knowledge or consent. If what Aaron did was legitimate, why did he systematically hide these activities for two years by falsifying firm records?
This is an email I found on Porsche Drive. From: firstname.lastname@example.org, on February 23, 2017, almost a year after NWMJ Law acquired Pelley Law. Aaron’s email has no content, just an attachment, and in the subject line, ‘Fee Agmt Templates for property seizures.’ Cindi replied by attaching several Fee Agreements that were never loaded onto NWMJ Law Clio or Google Drive. Aaron testified that Cindi kept records, a separate calendar, and client files outside NWMJ Law, and she knew that fees were for NWMJ Law. In response to an Arbitration subpoena, Cindi’s lawyer argued that providing these would be unduly burdensome and denied that Cindi kept a scrapbook. A reasonable inference is that Cindi and those in the 260-suite knew and assisted Aaron in withholding cases, information, and fees outside NWMJ Law.
This is a photograph taken outside The Comedy Store in Los Angeles. The Certified Fraud Examiner estimates that Aaron had stolen approximately $400,000 from NWMJ Law by this time, yet Aaron took all the benefits of and played the part of an NWMJ Law business partner. In hindsight, Aaron may have been having problems maintaining his hatred for me and his justifications for his crimes.
Aaron protected the sub-par Oregon associate, Dick, who never met our low billable hour threshold, did work for clients without an IOLTA deposit. and was continually unresponsive to team members and clients. This is a notarized Affidavit from an Oregon client who paid $2,500 in cash to Dick, which was never delivered to NWMJ Law. I later found that Dick continued to operate his law firm throughout his full-time employment with NWMJ Law, took NWMJ Law client fees directly into his still active law firm bank account, and his firm website claimed his solo firm merged with Lane Powell.
We agreed to disengage three pro bono clients and keep only one. Above a draft email to disengage the three pro bono clients, I say, ‘Aaron – Your feedback, please. Same message for each, of course, separate emails… is there anyone I missed?’ At several meetings, I specifically asked if these four were all NWMJ Law’s pro bono clients. Aaron never offered that West Green Budz, Mitch, Kenneth, and others were pro bono. On two occasions, Aaron agreed to call West Green Budz to collect on late payments. During the Arbitration, Aaron lied under oath countless times, stating West Green Budz, Mitch, Kenneth, and others were pro bono clients. He stated to the Bar Association that he was authorized to write off fees without my knowledge or consent. The Bar Association pointed out that I was wrong about the date of the West Green Budz fee agreement and dismissed my allegations of Aaron’s fraudulent altering of multiple NWMJ Law client financial records every month for two years.
SonGrown IOLTA funds were paid by Anthony, a third party that NWMJ Law represented. Aaron came to me and said, “I told SonGrown that they had $5040 in its trust, but Anthony said the $5040 was for his trust account. What do I do?” I told Aaron to write a check from the NWMJ Law operating account to SonGrown’s IOLTA account to cover the discrepancy. Instead, Aaron took the $5040 in a cashier’s check from our operating account. Nancy provided this email after the fact, since Aaron excluded me. Four days later, Aaron emailed Nancy, ‘We need 5040 worth of credit applied as pro bono on [SonGrown].’ The same day, Aaron cashed the $5040 cashier’s check from the NWMJ Law operating account, and, ironically, the BECU stamp in the endorsement space says, ‘NOT USED FOR PURPOSE INTENDED.’ Tampering with IOLTA money is a violation of RPC 1.15A. The Bar Association never asked Aaron about this incident and summarily dismissed this allegation in my grievance.
This October 30, 2016, email was sent to me by Nancy after the fact. Aaron excluded me from all communication with Nancy regarding the Pelley Law bank accounts. Nancy provided him a complete list of bank accounts she found within Aaron and Autumn’s QuickBooks file and asked for the disposition. In reply, Aaron says, ‘That is another account from Pelley Law. It does not need to be included and is not an asset for NWMJ.’ And about another, he said, ‘Ignore this account.’ By the terms of the Operating Agreement, all assets of Pelley Law were transferred on April 15, 2016, to NWMJ Law. (See Exhibit 7, the Clio report of all closed Pelley Law bank accounts at Umpqua Bank and no reference to the BofA accounts.)
Nancy so rarely emailed me that she used my out-of-date email address. Nancy told me, after-the-fact, that Aaron had instructed her not to email me, that he was the majority shareholder. On June 8, 2017, Aaron put $20,000 in the operating account and told me the client’s name who paid $20,000 owed on several past due invoices equaling around $37,000. After Aaron departed from NWMJ Law, I reviewed these invoices. In Clio, Aaron issued a combination of Professional Courtesy Discounts and credit notes for the total amount due of $37,289. I called the client to ask if he had a receipt. He said he paid Aaron in full, in cash, in May or June 2017, but would not have any record except his bank withdrawals. He promised to supply those, but never did.
The accountant, Nancy, supplied me with her entire archive of emails with NWMJ Law. This email from Autumn using her personal address asks, “We are looking into getting a home loan and our broker asked if we could provide some documentation that would show Aaron’s YTD income. Could you pull something like that for us to provide him, please?’ Nancy’s attachment on the email shows a portion of the ‘owners draw’ Aaron took above the agreed-to $6,000 a month. In Exhibit 1, Aaron confirmed that cash disbursements required unanimity, draws are cash disbursements. The Prosecutor declined to prosecute Aaron’s embezzlement crimes because he claimed a jury would not understand. The Bar Association accepted Aaron’s lie that he was authorized to do whatever he wanted if it was less than $10,000.
This is a small example of how Aaron treated the NWMJ Law bank account as his personal ATM. None of this money Aaron took was for a legitimate business purpose. Members of an LLC owe a duty of care and loyalty. The duty of care requires members to exercise the care, diligence, and skill that any ordinary, prudent person would exhibit under similar circumstances. Under the duty of loyalty, a member or manager is supposed to put the success of and benefits to the LLC above any personal or individual advantages.
This is a QuickBooks report generated to issue Aaron’s K1 for 2017. The Tax CPA and I found $46,247.05 in unauthorized money Aaron took from the NWMJ Law operating account, most between January and May 2017. In January 2017, Aaron added ReceiptBank to our financial process, an app that uploaded receipts, before that Aaron had nowhere to hide his receipts. Aaron’s email in Exhibit 1 explicitly confirms that he had no individual authority on cash disbursements. Ironically, Aaron called many personal charges, ATM and bank withdrawals ‘owners draw’, by naming them as such, he classified them as embezzled funds. The Prosecutor, who is the Chair of the Financial Crime Unit, declined to Prosecute these crimes. The Bar Association dismissed stating this was a civil matter and the Supreme Court of Washington claimed there is ‘conflicting evidence’.
This is an email exchange with the real estate broker referenced in Exhibit 21. Aaron was authorized to take $72,000 a year from NWMJ Law and Autumn was not working. The broker responded, ‘In ‘16 it [K1 income] was about $62k… using a ‘15 and ‘16 average of schedule C income is about $43k/year or about $3,600/month. Autumn responds, ‘It has come to my attention that there may be another personal lender that can loan us some money.’ The broker replies, ‘OK if you plan to use this $100k to buy the home, we’ll need to call it “gift funds from a relative”.’ Aaron tells Autumn to, ‘Ask him [the real estate broker] to approach the underwriter again regarding these terms. 33% down on 300k. Will the underwriter give us a loan for 200k?’ Aaron controlled his capabilities, here in private he is astute and cogent, we never saw this at NWMJ Law. While Aaron spent his efforts at NWMJ Law stealing, he was building his defense of incompetence and accidents. Neither the Bar Association nor the Prosecutor investigated this, and Aaron’s reply does not fit with the presumed defense that he is a poor businessman. See, RCW 9A.82.080 “Use of proceeds of criminal profiteering.”
In May 2017, I discovered that NWMJ Law had not paid Seattle office rent for three months, had unpaid bills totaling more than $46,072.17, and that Aaron reimbursed himself $14,737.02 for expenses incurred back in spring 2016. I confronted Aaron about why this occurred while he was directing the bookkeeper and Nancy. Zoey, our tax CPA, emailed that Aaron must supply IRS acceptable receipts or return the reimbursement money to NWMJ Law. Aaron never provided receipts or returned the reimbursement. He voluntarily turned over management of all firm finances to me and adapted his method for stealing money.
Once I took over the finances, Aaron agreed to move to the 420-suite and ordered a Porsche brand hard drive, which he set to automatically back up his NWMJ Law desktop computer files. He neglected to include Porsche Drive in the firm assets that he could take in the Settlement Agreement. I found thousands of client files, Fee Agreements, and emails documenting Aaron’s two years of crimes. Aaron purposefully kept firm records off Google Drive and withheld these from Clio, the firm’s cloud-based management software. It is a reasonable inference that May 2017 was when Aaron started to prepare for his departure by gathering assets, money, securing clients, and recklessly creating catastrophic liability.
Aaron’s deposition testimony about the Bank of America Account. Aaron was coached to not answer with any detail, to play the incompetent business partner, but here there was no escaping. Aaron testified that he worked full time for NWMJ Law, he took $6,000 per month in cash, and that deposits in this account were owner draws, yet he cannot recall the source of the money deposited in the BofA account. As examples of deposits: in one month Aaron deposits $3,497.45, $100.00, $31.92, another month $1,500 and $4,743.32, and another month $2,500 and $1,500. There is only one month in which Aaron deposits $6,000, our agreed-to-owner draw. (See Exhibit 6.)
This is an email I found on Porsche Drive between the 260-suite lawyers showing their lack of respect for prosecutors. Aaron’s first analysis of a case, which was held out of NWMJ Law reveals his true ability. At NWMJ Law He played incompetent, bumbling, and absent-minded to create chaos as his cover, the exact defense that the Prosecutor said would thwart prosecution efforts.
Receipts from March through June 2017 for time Aaron spent with the photographer’s assistant, which he charged to NWMJ Law. In November 2017, he asked everyone in the 420-suite whether they thought he was sleeping with the photographer or her assistant, Jennifer. These are not ‘Expenditure in excess of 10k’, Aaron had the authority but still, it is an abuse of his member duties and contributed $424.43 to our accumulation of debt. These were all in ReceiptBank.
In October 2017 (the same month Aaron deposited $32,214.60 in his secret US Bank account) Autumn emails Aaron, ‘Forgiving Anne for her past bullshit and being able to be present in the now to move forward. It doesn’t mean you have to accept her bad behavior or continue to work with her it just might help you move into a different space.’ Porsche Drive contained emails and texts between Aaron and Autumn in September and October 2017, based on these, when Autumn sent this email about forgiving me, Autumn knew about Aaron’s affair with the photographer’s assistant, Jennifer. Despite the affair’s revelation, their emails and texts paint a picture of marital accord. In September 2017, Aaron texted Doyle that he could not go drinking because he and Autumn were doing a cleansing fast. To the Bar Association, Aaron denied that he ever said to me he stopped drinking because he lost control of his anger at home, instead, at this time he was experiencing marital problems. I experienced this with Aaron, he gave evolving explanations and different answers to the same question. Aaron testified that he was authorized to take $72,000 a year from NWMJ Law and Autumn was not working.
This email from Jeffrey is about him and Aaron picking up the largest portion of the $34,247.10 settlement between an NWMJ Law contingency client and the City of Renton. Jeffrey jokes about ‘the cash will be returned as a (government-laundered) check.’ This case is a public record. I signed the agreement months earlier when Aaron was out. All the case emails and most case documents were on Porsche Drive, fewer than four documents were on the NWMJ Law Clio and Google Drive.
I had signed the Zhao NWMJ Law Fee Agreement months earlier when Aaron was out of 260-suite, and someone there sent the client to 420-suite. This case was the only criminal Fee Agreement I ever signed; I found it on Porsche Drive. Aaron placed an email message from Cindi about a different case on Clio and Cindi concludes the email with, ‘and: Anne signed your Fee Agreement for you. lol’. Cindi found my signing a Fee Agreement on NWMJ Law’s letterhead worth a laugh.
In this June 2017, NWMJ Law email to the team, Aaron said, ‘…because a few things were inadvertently deleted when I was working’. Aaron accidentally deleted documents from Google Drive, he was aware of this deletion, and he immediately recovered the deleted documents. In March 2018, two days after Aaron was removed from NWMJ Law, he deleted the entire contents of the NWMJ Law’s Google Drive. He did not recover the deleted files, causing catastrophic damage to every client and firm file and the loss of more than 33,000 files. Aaron lied under oath at least three times and stated to the Bar Association that it was an accident. He was dismissed from all liability for his illegal actions by the Bar Association and the Prosecutor. There is a pattern of Aaron’s being cogent and competent when he chooses; he often said he compartmentalized his life. Controlling impressions is common behavior in white-collar criminals. The advent of the computer presents new opportunities for white-collar crime within the workplace and outside of it, both in both creating and destroying evidence. Aaron took full advantage of his capabilities to remain in control of NWMJ Law’s technology, then after he was no longer a member of NWMJ Law, Aaron claimed he accidentally deleted the Google Drive. Similarly, Aaron claimed that wiping Dick’s laptop hard drive was standard procedure but failed to produce another example of an NWMJ Law computer with a similar treatment. Interestingly, the Bar Association accepted as fact that Aaron wiped all computer hard drives, but contradictorily subpoenaed two NWMJ Law laptops that Aaron took in violation of the Settlement Agreement. Both these laptops were intact, Aaron had not followed the procedure he testified to by failing to wipe these two computer hard drives.
Aaron learned the Zhao case would settle and opened a bank account at US Bank in anticipation of his need to deposit NWMJ Law’s $34,247.10 contingency fee. He opened the account under Aaron Pelley, Inc. and in the first month, he had four overdrafts. On October 27, 2017, Aaron deposited $30,000 of the $31,600 from Jeffrey’s IOLTA account, he took $1,600 in cash, and on October 31, there were six overdraft charges. Jeffrey testified that Aaron asked him to get a cashier’s check because he could not wait for the check funds to clear. In November 2017, Aaron spent $27,539.41 from this account on personal expenses and a family trip to Vancouver Canada. Aaron provided the records from US Bank during Arbitration and testified that he shared this fee with me through partnership disbursements. I never knew the dates or amounts of the fee that Aaron stole until I saw his US Bank records during the Arbitration discovery. He falsified the discovery when he removed copies of checks and then refused to sign the pleading. Aaron’s actions are a violation of several RPCs, which the Bar Association dismissed for insufficient evidence, and would reopen only if Aaron were charged or convicted of crimes. The Prosecutor declined to prosecute the Zhao fee theft, erroneously stating that evidence was attorney-client privilege, but the money was paid by Jeffrey to Aaron. The client would not be needed as a witness and there are no invoices for this contingency case, the check notation identified the source of funds.
After I took over the company finances, Aaron charged $1,050.93 of family expenses on the NWMJ Law debit card and then reported the card stolen. Aaron lied on this Affidavit report to the credit union, a financial institution. The last page is an email exchange with Nancy. Aaron stated, ‘These are both owner’s draws for me.’ In March 2017, Aaron charged to the same QFC as the ‘stolen’ debit card. In Exhibit 6, the BofA Pelley Law statements have numerous charges to the same QFC as the alleged theft. Beyond just violating the RPCs, Aaron violated Washington State RCW 2.48.220. The Prosecutor declined to prosecute Aaron for perjury.
These are the Zhao payments. Jeffrey testified twice that Aaron instructed him to pay these to Aaron Pelley not NWMJ Law. Aaron asked Jeffrey for a $31,600 cashier’s check because he could not wait for a check to clear. The first page is an overview of November 2017, when Aaron deposited the $31,600 in his US Bank account and then proceeded to spend $27,539.41 from this account.
No fees for Zhao were ever received by me or by NWMJ Law. The King County Prosecutor declined to prosecute Aaron’s first-degree thefts, cybercrimes, perjury, and embezzlement, stating that a jury would not understand, there was insufficient non-privileged evidence, and he could not prosecute Federal cybercrimes. (Exhibit 58, which details Aaron’s at least nine cybercrime charges under Washington Cybercrimes Act, RCW 9A.90. and a five-year sentence and $10,000 fine for each Class C felony.)
Aaron said I knew about the Zhao settlement, the largest contingency fee case that NWMJ Law should have collected. In this Arbitration deposition, I asked about Aaron’s US Bank account, “Was it your intent to deposit the Zhao checks in this account?” Aaron’s defense lawyer threw out every interruption he could, including, “Object to the term Zhao. But go ahead and answer if you can.” Aaron then replied, “I don’t know.”. Later, Aaron stated to the Bar Association that I knew about the Zhao settlement based on this testimony. However, Aaron makes no statement that I knew about the Zhao settlement, only that he discussed opening the US Bank account with me. At the time Aaron made the statement to the Bar Association that I knew about the Zhao settlement; I only knew because Aaron provided the records during the Arbitration discovery. These legal manipulations of the truth happened throughout this case. While the astute judge from our Arbitration analyzed the veracity and meaning of Aaron’s assertions, the Bar Association, the Supreme Court, and the King County Prosecutor accepted Aaron’s evolving explanations above all the analysis and evidence to the contrary.
Aaron went on a two-day business trip, at NWMJ Law’s expense, to engage in a deal between Walker and RDDM/TruFund Bank. Aaron texted me, ‘On the good news note, RDDM wants to discuss hiring our firm after this merger. So I rocked that meeting. Their headquarters is in Maui.’ Aaron created several invoices, collected all those fees from Walker, never deposited them in the NWMJ Law bank account, and promptly deleted the entire Clio file. In January 2018, Aaron rented space from TruFund Bank next to Girard’s consulting office.
An email exchange between the 260-suite lawyers about the Wang case, another non-privileged theft that the Prosecutor declined to prosecute, stating that Aaron’s defense would be that he is a sloppy businessman.
Nancy followed up with Aaron about an outstanding $5,000 payment due for the Wang case. Despite Aaron being a seasoned expert in Clio, his email gives two excuses, ‘Did I set up the matter wrong, or did the payment get applied wrong?’ Fifteen days later, Nancy follows up with Michaela. Only five thousand dollars of a $20,000 fee was deposited in the NWMJ Law account. All fees would have been paid before the conclusion of the pre-trial phase, which ended on August 1, 2017. There is no record of the second $10,000 invoice or payment, another example of Aaron’s grocery money, his mastery of fraud through obfuscation and falsifying records in Clio, and his premeditated incompetence defense.
I was a day away from flying back to Seattle for the NWMJ Law end-of-the-year partner meeting when I received this email from Aaron – ‘Anne, I have been thinking about our business moving forward and have realized that I must make a change. I am going to need to meet with you to discuss what this looks like moving forward, as I will not continue to work with you in the coming year. We will need to figure out the most practical way to wrap up the current business. There are many options to discuss and I hope we can do so amicably. Going forward, I want to have a mediator or witness at all meetings. We have a meeting scheduled for this Saturday that should be postponed unless we can find someone to be a witness that we both can agree upon. I would like things to move swiftly. If we can’t meet this weekend, I would like to make sure we are scheduled to meet before January 5th so that by the end of the month we can start to move our separate ways. I expect you will exercise professional courtesy of first determining how we will end the partnership and meeting with me to come to a settlement, before announcing it to people within or outside our firm.’ I was shocked and puzzled by his language about needing a witness.
Aaron lied under oath in the Arbitration hearing about these calls. I began my cross-examination of Aaron with this issue to show that Aaron routinely lied, even about things that were easy to verify. Aaron wrote an email saying he would call 34 clients on a list I provided on his drive to Salem. A few hours later he emailed, ‘I got hold of over half the list. I think that most of them will be paying within the next week ([Cort] will pay in 2 weeks) Dick has been tasked with calling his clients and getting money in.’ Aaron’s cell phone records revealed that he called only one client, he never expected to be questioned or caught at his lies. Charles Dike, M.D., a forensic psychiatrist and clinical instructor in psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine, describes pathological lying “as repeated lies told over a number of years for which an external reason is not easily discernable.” Across his entire personal and professional life, Aaron’s lying was a mixture of essential and non-essential lies.
After Joseph sent a final Settlement Agreement for signature, Aaron sent these additional demands that I thought we had resolved. I refused to concede more, although I still did not know that Aaron stole between $400,000 and $835,000 from NWMJ Law, lied for two years, and would cause more damage to the firm after his departure by destroying all our files. I left the office, bought packing boxes, and packed Aaron’s stuff. The next day I moved back into 420-suite corner office.
Aaron prematurely redirected the NWMJ Law website to Cultiva Law. This caused chaos when anyone did an online search for NWMJ Law. A client looked up NWMJ Law and mistakenly sent some valuable property to the Cultiva Law office address. It took days to get the property back. Aaron’s actions violated his duty to safeguard client property. At this same time, Aaron collected a trust check from an Oregon client and withheld it for a month. The Bar Association dismissed these RPC violations.
This email rant is Aaron’s attempt to re-engage me in the Settlement Agreement negotiations. He emailed, ‘I am glad I had an attorney look at it and work on it with me.’ The lawyer Aaron references is Dick. Although Dick is not licensed in Washington, Aaron had Dick do work for Aaron’s benefit on the Settlement Agreement and Dick charged his time to NWMJ Law. Aaron also says, ‘Since you have removed me from management the company has gone from a 60k surplus to nothing.’ This is flawed on many levels and shows Aaron’s deep lack of comprehending the financial state of NWMJ Law caused by his thefts and embezzlement. Then Aaron sums up his rant by refusing to pay our employees, which is against the law.
Aaron vacillated between threatening and conciliatory behavior throughout the settlement negotiations. In this email, ‘My attorney says the war we are starting cannot be undone and the most likely outcome is dissolution. I don’t want to dissolve the company. So I am not filing anything. You want to file on me, I will pay the filing fee and counter. But the ball is in your court.’
Later in the same email exchange, Aaron writes, ‘All my emails for clients are saved to Clio. That is specifically why I continually push and insist everyone use Click-to-file.’ Porsche Drive proves that this is a blatant lie and could have been my basis to void the Settlement Agreement. Had I taken that action, Aaron would regain his ownership in NWMJ Law and I could then move for judicial dissolution of NWMJ Law. Given that Aaron had threatened to kill me, this was not an option I could take.
During the entire two years we were business partners, Aaron suppressed my online presence and promoted himself, Dick, and Ted. There were more photos of Elizabeth’s dog on the firm’s social media than of me, Sammy, or Roy. This is but one example of how Aaron cares only about his image, very Donald Trumpesque. He did nothing he was supposed to do under the terms of the Settlement Agreement, and before it was signed, he stole the NWMJ Law website SEO and all the social media. I sent this email to Aaron when I was alerted that Aaron had left images on social media of NWMJ Law people who did not work for Cultiva Law.
Aaron emailed, ‘Thanks for all these changes and clarifications. I have made three other deletions, all in track changes. Otherwise, I am done. As proof that I will sign something (I know you believed I wouldn’t), here it is, signed. I don’t think this is the agreement I wanted. I don’t think it is the agreement you wanted. But it is done. I will have Autumn execute when she gets home from work and I will sign the companion docs for my removal from accounts and get Dick’s check, once I get a signed one back.’ On the signed version, Aaron had made changes not identified in track changes, he removed four paragraphs and a whole page. Aaron’s doing this is fraud such that I could have voided the Settlement Agreement, and his lie about all his changes is a violation of several Rules of Professional Conduct.
Under the Settlement Agreement terms, Aaron was obligated to turn over administrative control of all NWMJ Law accounts immediately upon execution. March 6, 7:30 am, I sent Elizabeth, Teivel (our interim IT person), and Aaron an email with the subject line ‘Clio and Google’, saying, ‘Please work with Aaron and Teivel to remove Aaron today and replace me as the administrator on both accounts.’ Aaron refused to do so for three days. While making repeated calls and emails demanding the logins and passwords, I worked directly with Clio and Google. Clio turned over control when I supplied evidence and an Affidavit showing Aaron was no longer a member, and I threatened to sue them. Google refused even with an Affidavit showing that I was the sole owner of the firm.
March 7, Teivel emailed, ‘Hi Aaron, Thanks for the update on the files. 1. Clio: please call them and remove 2. Google: Please generate the Admin 1-time PIN at https://work.google.com/access and then call: 855.836.3987 to have them switch the Uber-admin to [NWMJ] Law’s Admin account.’ Aaron refused to turn over the administrative control of NWMJ Law’s Google Drive and Clio. Instead, he used his insider knowledge to destroy NWMJ Law. The Bar Association dismissed Aaron’s actions as civil in nature.
This is a distilled spreadsheet of data taken from Google, once I regained control, showing the start of Aaron’s download and the end of the download. The full spreadsheet is 59 pages. It shows that 24 hours after Aaron was no longer a member of NWMJ Law, on March 7, 2018, at 01:53:48 pm GMT, he made an unauthorized entry and began downloading everything from the NWMJ Law Google Drive (I later learned it went to Blue Drive). Aaron completed this on March 9, 2018, at 09:58:00 pm GMT. After three days of downloading, he then wiped the entire Google Drive and contacted Elizabeth, who accepted Blue Drive on the front steps of our building. Aaron lied under oath three times and stated to the Bar Association that he accidentally deleted everything. He never informed anyone that he wiped the cloud storage, and Google never told us. The Bar Association dismissed Aaron’s destruction of 438 client file folders containing an unknown quantity of files, my 134 legacy client files from before the acquisition, and all firm financial, employee, and general records. This is a violation of many RPCs. The Prosecutor declined to prosecute this cybercrime, erroneously stating that they could not use the federal law that I cited 18 USC § 1030. An astute Prosecutor would charge Aaron under the Washington Cybercrime Act, RCW Chapter 9A.90.
On March 14, 2018, Aaron had not done a single thing he was required to do under the Settlement Agreement except prematurely take the website and social media. I provided this email list with all the things he must do, threatening, ‘Please be aware that if these issues are not resolved by EOB Wednesday, March 21, I will seek a temporary order from JAMS. I will serve your Oregon landlord and call the police to oversee the orderly enforcement of the order. I will provide the order to all social media accounts, and they will take down the Cultiva Law postings. One outlet also stated that they may ban Cultiva’s presence as punishment for your posting falsely obtained content.’ I had done every action required of me under the Settlement Agreement and started on time-sensitive Aaron tasks, such as withdrawal of NWMJ Law on court cases. Aaron erroneously thought that I breached the Settlement Agreement by refusing to immediately remove the NWMJ Law website and social media content, which was his right only after he completed all his obligations under the Settlement Agreement. He also refused to return the entire contents of the Portland office, which was not his property under the Settlement Agreement.
In response to my email demand, Aaron’s delusional reply sent to Joseph states, ‘With regards to her extensive list, I will continue to work on those items that are in the contract and required of me. Much of her list will not be met or addressed by the EOB on Monday, March 19, 2018. Those items that I can address by then, I will. However, I am meeting with attorneys regarding her deliberate and admitted breach. In the interim, with regards to copyright matters, I have hired Neil to address those concerns. Doug and Shira will represent me in the arbitration matter and any further matters relating to the settlement should be directed to them. Dick (email@example.com) will be counsel with regards to any cause of action regarding the Portland Office. With regards to her request for entry, at this time she does not have permission or authority to enter the property. We have contacted building management to let them know the same.’ I spent forty-seven thousand dollars on mediation, Settlement, and the Notice of Default to ensure that I was following the letter and intent of the law, abiding by the RPCs, and protecting our clients. Aaron spent nothing then brought on criminal lawyers for a business dispute, used his employee Dick, and recruited Neil, who quickly emailed Joseph, ‘only for Intellectual Property matters.’ Still, Aaron never completed any of the tasks he agreed to do except take the digital media.
I included a cybercrime policy in the NWMJ Law January 2018 insurance renewal. Deeply concerned about my duty to NWMJ Law clients and the potential liability, I consulted with the lawyer provided by the insurance company, and he sent this letter to Aaron regarding the missing client files. He provided me with advice on notifying clients and compliance with data breach laws in the four states where we practiced. Neither Aaron nor his lawyers ever responded to this letter nor the continued efforts of the computer policy lawyer. Aaron lied under oath, stating that he had no files from NWMJ Law. At the time he testified to this, Aaron had in his possession two laptops, which were not his property under the Settlement Agreement, with numerous NWMJ Law files and emails. The Bar Association disregarded this. The Prosecutor claimed that it could not enforce federal laws and failed to consider the Washington Cybercrimes Act, RCW 9A.90.
I am not a litigator, but my opening statement set the stage for the myriad of crimes, violations of the Settlement Agreement, and the catastrophic damage to NWMJ Law’s computer files that Aaron committed. The handwritten notes I made as I waited for the Arbitration to begin.
I created this chart for the Arbitration, known as demonstrative evidence, to show the massive destruction of client files and firm records that Aaron perpetrated after he was no longer a member of NWMJ Law. A Prosecutor knowledgeable in cybercrimes would charge Aaron for each act, (1) unauthorized, intentional access of Dick’s computer and (2) data tampering by wiping the hard drive of Dick’s computer in furtherance of the thefts; (3) unauthorized, intentional access of the NWMJ Law’s Google Drive and (4) data tampering by downloading the entire contents to Blue Drive, and (5) then wiping Google drive in furtherance of the thefts, fraud; and (6) unauthorized, intentional access of Applemail and data tampering by deleting all email under (7) aaron@nwmjlaw, (8) aaron@[new firm name], and (9) dick@[new firm name]. That adds up to nine felonies, each cybercrime is a five-year sentence or a $10,000 fine, or both. The King County Prosecutor declined to prosecute Aaron for all these cybercrimes because I cited to the federal law rather than the Washington State law.
This demonstrative evidence created for the Arbitration shows Aaron’s operation of Pelley Law to steal fees from NWMJ Law the entire time he was a partner. Aaron engaged in five of the eight most typical white-collar crimes: fraud, cybercrimes, embezzlement, money laundering, and racketeering. The cash-based marijuana industry facilitated Aaron’s ability to perpetrate these crimes undetected. Peter, the Certified Fraud Examiner shared his analysis of Aaron’s criminal activities with a friend of his in the FBI, who stated I would love to go after this guy, but we don’t have the resources.
This demonstrative evidence created for the Arbitration explains the Fraud Triangle and how that applies to Aaron’s actions. Aaron is the classic model of the white-collar criminal: white male with an advanced degree, family, at a management level with access and control over assets, and an 80% rate of depression and anxiety. The median loss committed by owners/executives is $573,000. The Department of Justice reports the annual losses from white-collar crimes are estimated at $426 billion to $1.7 trillion. White-collar crimes are dismissed as just another shrewd business practice by an ambitious man to keep ahead of competitors. Aaron was secretly competing with NWMJ Law.
The Arbitration concluded late on Friday afternoon. I piled my boxes and notebooks on a cart borrowed from JAMS and navigated the pedestrian clogged sidewalk to my car. I stopped a stranger on the street to capture this photo of me with the Arbitration file. I felt that I had won as I walked out the door, and I was proud of what I accomplished. I showed that Aaron was a liar, a fraud, a thief, and he did everything he could to destroy the law firm I built. I had two years’ worth of evidence of his crimes that I could hand to the Bar Association and the Prosecutor.
In June 2020, I arrived back from three weeks in Hawaii, including my mandatory 14-day COVID 19 quarantine on the farm, to celebrate my fifty-fifth birthday and be with Mom for the first anniversary of Dad’s death. I read the Bar Association’s dismissal of my grievance against Aaron, and I could not speak to anyone for four days.
This is the first page of the Appeal that I spent the three weeks crafting an appeal to the Bar Association Office of Disciplinary Counsel’s Dismissal of my grievance against Aaron.
This is the entire letter without exhibits that I wrote to Chief Justice Stephens of the Washington State Supreme Court expressing my dismay over the Bar Association’s incompetence and institutional sexism in handling my allegations against Aaron.
This is an American Bar Association article about the systemic problems with the Washington State Bar Association Board, institutional sexism, the Supreme Court’s treatment of the issue, the lack of transparency at the Washington State Bar Association, and how employees and outside lawyers have lost faith in the integrity of the institution. The man gets promoted then sues to extort a statement in praise of his work, whereas the woman has to fight for any recognition of the wrongdoing, harm, and injustice against her.
This is a small American Bar Association article, “The former president of the Washington State Bar Association has been charged with stealing about $16,000 from the bar and her two former Spokane-area law firms.” And continues, “Haynes was the youngest bar president in the state’s history when she began her term in October 2016. She resigned in June 2017 after the allegations surfaced.” Finally the ABA writes, “Corrected on Oct. 23 to state that Haynes was only charged with stealing about $1,500 from the WSBA, though an affidavit alleged the total amount taken from the bar was about $11,000.” I include this for a comparison of the differing standards for pressing charges and bar action for theft against men and women lawyers. Haines’s thefts in dollar figures are dwarfed by Aaron’s thefts, embezzlement, and fraud of between $400,000 and $835,000.
Three months later, I received an answer from Chief Justice Stephens and a form response from the Bar Association affirming the Dismissal. Neither acknowledged the lengthy list of allegations that were not investigated, no records subpoenaed, no deposition, and no analysis letter. Again, differing standards for men and women lawyers.
I called the Prosecutor after more than a year of hearing nothing on Aaron’s criminal case. I received this email reply stating that nothing was done because the Taint Team must review cases with attorney-client privilege evidence, and the Taint Team is busy with murders and other serious crimes. I reminded him that Aaron threatened to kill me.
I supplied the Prosecutor with a narrow scope of charges that avoided the privilege problem, including a DRAFT charging document. The next time I heard from the Prosecutor was to inform me that the State of Washington was declining to prosecute because there was insufficient, non-privileged evidence to win the case.
The Chair Prosecutor provided me with a document I had never seen, the Case Investigation Report—Certificate for Determining Probable Cause. Seattle Police Department’s Detective Meyst with the Financial Crime Division wrote this report after investigating the evidence I provided, and his analysis included references to substantial evidence that I did not provide. After nine months, SPD Det. Meyst determined, ‘There is probable cause to believe that Aaron Anthony Pelley ([DOB]) committed the crime of Theft 1st Degree within the City of Seattle, County of King, State of Washington.’ It goes on to analyze Aaron operating Pelley Law and Cultiva Law for criminal activities of money laundering and the theft of Zhao fees. Det. Meyst also writes about a portion of Aaron’s cybercrimes.
The Chair Prosecutor provided me with another document I had never seen. This is the report from the Prosecutor who acted as the Taint Team stating, ‘I am skeptical that a theft case could survive an assertion of privilege if it were dependent on the conversion of client payments, given that to prove that the funds were due to the firm, it would be necessary to establish the nature of the billable work that was performed.’ The Zhao case was public record, no privilege assertion could be made, and because of the Fee Agreement, there were no client invoices for this case and the checks issued by Jeffrey document the purpose of the payments made to Aaron directly and that Aaron deposited them to his US Bank account.
In this email exchange with the Chair Prosecutor, he states, ‘I apologize for the confusion. I (mis)read your email as meaning that these were new/additional threats that Mr. Pelley had made recently (and, therefore, had not yet been reported to Det. Meyst). The information already relayed to Det. Meyst back in 2018 does not need to be re-reported. Again, I’m sorry for my misunderstanding and for any concern it caused.’
I responded, ‘I am shocked that given the massive amount of evidence provided that Aaron Pelley has successfully evaded accountability for his systematic crimes and threatening to kill me. If criminals like this cannot be prosecuted, what chance do people like me stand? I acted in good faith through the entire three-year ordeal to allow law enforcement, your office, and the Bar Association to do their respective jobs. I am an accomplished lawyer, and I was dismissed as a woman scorned. The non-prosecution of white men is not a popular stance these days. I have been re-victimized by the system’s failures. You are wrong, a jury would understand his behavior as theft, embezzlement, and destroying evidence. For three years, everyone who touched this case saw the pattern. It is unethical that two-thirds of this file was never reviewed, this is the duty of your office. As I told you before, I am not letting go of this case; it is emblematic of the systemic bias against everyone who doesn’t look like you.’ This was so illogical. The Detectives and Prosecutors admitted that there was evidence of financial crimes, I provided a set of crimes to charge without attorney-client privilege evidence, and we spent a month emailing about the flaws in the decision to decline.
The Prosecutor filed a report to Seattle Police Department stating, ‘Here, Pelley will almost certainly assert at trial that the transactions in question were either things he was entitled to do or were the result of (non-criminal) mistakes on his part. While there does appear to be evidence from which a jury might find that Pelley was not entitled to do various things that he did, there does not appear to be sufficient evidence to make it probable that the jury would find beyond a reasonable doubt that he acted with the requisite criminal intent. That is particularly the case given that the jury would be instructed that a defendant is presumed innocent and that the burden of proof on every issue is on the State. For all of the above reasons, we must decline to file charges at this time.’ It was final. Despite the contradiction in the reports, a half-dozen white men allowed a white man to evade prosecution for dozens of felonies that did not need attorney-client privilege evidence.
I sent the Chair Prosecutor an email, ‘I ask that you or someone in your office write to the Washington State Bar Association Office of Disciplinary Counsel about Aaron Pelley’s numerous violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct. You are all lawyers and have a duty to report unethical behavior. Your key rationales for declining to prosecute were the jury and the burden of proof. Neither would be an obstacle for holding Aaron Pelley accountable for his now five years of violations, at the very least, RPC 8.4. The Prosecutor replied, ‘A copy of the letter we are sending to the WSBA-ODC is attached. The decision as to what, if any, action should be taken vis-à-vis Mr. Pelley’s license is a matter for the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. For a number of reasons, including the basis for the Decline decision and the fact that no one at the KCPAO has any direct personal knowledge of any of the events at issue, we do not believe it is appropriate for us to offer an opinion or take a position beyond that which is contained in the letter and the attachments.’
This is what the Chair Prosecutor attached to the email in Exbibit 75. The standard for the Bar Association is lower than the Prosecutor. With a probable cause report from a Seattle Police Detective stating there is evidence of crimes, the Bar Association never reopened my grievance against Aaron.
This is a concert ticket I had framed in 2016 to remind me of my goal. While I made mistakes, the experiences of investigating, gathering evidence, synthesizing fact and law, adapting, researching, implementing my strategy, pushing the Bar Association and the Prosecutor to do their jobs, constitute the essence of thinking like a lawyer. Ironically, my desire to become a lawyer on a par with this piano virtuoso came from exposing and advocating for the prosecution of Aaron’s criminal activities, my search for equity and ethics in the legal profession and pointing out that my story is not unique in the cannabis industry. This reminder still hangs right next to my desk, and I am still working on this goal.