On Tuesday, June 20, 2023,  Azadeh Sophia Kokai, a former law firm partner who splurged on lavish items and trips with her firm’s credit card, has been banned from practicing law in New Jersey. The lawyer, who tried to conceal her fraudulent spending, was found to have violated multiple rules of professional conduct.

The case is entitled “In the Matter of Azadeh Sophia Kokai,” and was brought by the Office of Attorney Ethics with case no. 087280.

In a decision dated March 17, 2022, it was alleged that between December 2008 and December 2014, the respondent worked as an associate at Sughrue Mion law firm. During this time, she had a partner review her purchases made on the firm’s credit card to ensure they were legitimate. In January 2015, she was promoted to partner, which allowed her to make purchases without oversight. However, the respondent began misusing her partnership privileges by using the firm’s credit card for personal expenses such as luxury vacations, lavish dinners, expensive artwork, and personal travel expenses for herself and her husband. To cover up her extravagant purchases, she tried to disguise them as legitimate firm expenses in her expense reports.

Several instances of her fraudulent behavior are as follows; She claimed to have purchased airfare to Las Vegas for a legal seminar but was later confronted with social media images showing her at a bachelorette party in Las Vegas, she also charged airfare to Cincinnati for a conference that did not exist, and instead, attended a graduation ceremony in Kentucky, she used the firm’s credit card for personal trips to Orlando and Dubai, falsely claiming they were related to firm business. Other personal expenses the respondent charged to the firm’s credit card are dinners, entertainment, furniture, and artwork. Eventually, the firm discovered her improper charges and conducted an investigation, leading to her resignation and agreement to reimburse the firm $25,000. In March 2020, she stipulated to misappropriation of funds and agreed to a four-year suspension for her misconduct.

The Decision states:

“In April 2017, the respondent charged $1,829 on the firm’s credit card for her stay at the Pierre Hotel, in New York, and for “associated expenses[,]” to attend a friend’s wedding. Respondent listed the hotel charge, in her expense report, as a “[t]ravel [f]und [m]arketing expense class A (also CLE).” When her supervising partner confronted the respondent regarding these purchases, the respondent claimed that she had attended the wedding on her way to an American Conference Institute “Biosimilar conference.” The supervising partner, however, notified the respondent that the conference had occurred ten days after the wedding and that, following the wedding, the respondent had returned to Washington D.C. and charged, on the firm’s credit card, a meal at a Washington D.C. restaurant.”

The Decision continues:

“During the firm’s 2018 budget review, the respondent’s supervising partner discovered the respondent’s improper charges and conducted a thorough review of the respondent’s credit card usage and expense reports. Following its investigation, the firm concluded that the respondent had misappropriated approximately $30,000 in firm funds in connection with her illicit credit card charges.”

In lieu of the aforementioned facts and the decision of the Disciplinary Review Board wherein it concluded that the respondent should be permanently barred from future plenary or pro hac vice admission to the bar of New Jersey based on discipline imposed in the Commonwealth of Virginia for her unethical conduct.

The Disposition states:

“It is ORDERED that Azadeh Sophia Kokabi is hereby permanently barred from future plenary or pro hac vice admission in this State; and it is further ORDERED that respondent reimburse the Disciplinary Oversight Committee for appropriate administrative costs and actual expenses incurred in the prosecution of this matter, as provided in Rule 1:20-17.”

Ms. Kobabi is licensed in New Jersey.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.