Professional designers: Has anyone ever asked to see your degree? Probably not, because if you've got a portfolio and you say you're an industrial designer, or an architect, that's good enough for most people. Because who would have the balls to fake it?
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Paul J. Newman, that's who. Incredibly, the upstate New York man has been masquerading as an architect for nearly a decade, having stolen the license number of a registered architect and forging a New York State registration. But now the New York Attorney General's office has caught up to him, prosecuted him and sentenced him this week to prison.
How Could This have Possibly Happened?
How does someone fake being an architect? Well, let's look at the facts. An upstate New York newspaper reports that "Newman allegedly drafted architectural renderings for more than 100 properties in the three counties, including multiple large housing projects." If we're talking just renderings, it's entirely possible a determined layperson could pull that off. The problem is that he "also allegedly submitted foundation inspections, field reports, energy compliance certificates and engineer letters to various towns and cities falsely certifying he was a properly licensed architect, [Attorney General] Schneiderman's office said." That requires more expertise.
Newman's LinkedIn page lists him as the owner of Cohesion Studios (whose website is now, unsurprisingly, down) and the business is described as a "3D visualization solutions" company. It's possible that Newman basically ran an architectural renderings firm for years, and by working with actual architects, somehow gained enough experience to fake his way through the technicalities, then started calling himself an architect at some point. (That's just our guess, we have no proof of that.)
This week Newman was sentenced to prison, for the vague term of 28 months to seven years. And there's more time on the way; this week's sentence was for the charges he faces in Saratoga County, but he has yet to be sentenced for the other projects he undertook in nearby Albany and Renssalear Counties.
Thus far Newman's been found guilty of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class D felony; Forgery in the Second Degree, a class D felony; Unauthorized Practice of a Profession, a class E felony; and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony.
The AG's Office has a Seinfeldian Sense of Humor
Never mind that his name is Newman; the sting operation that netted him was called "Operation Vandelay Industries." We're not making that up, you can read about it here.