Ex-attorney who lied about abuse gets prison term

Associated Press (carried in the Seattle Times)
November 19, 2005

Portland — A disbarred Virginia lawyer has been sentenced to 37 months in prison after he falsely claimed to have been abused by a now-deceased Catholic priest.

Thomas E. Smolka, 57, attempted to defraud the Portland Archdiocese by claiming he had been abused as a child by the late Rev. Maurice Grammond in Oregon.

Grammond is accused of abusing more than 50 children in several Oregon parishes and is a focal point of lawsuits filed against the Catholic church.

Smolka, a former Virginia Beach lawyer, fled his home state after pleading guilty in Richmond to federal charges for having defrauded 17 clients out of at least $110,000 by taking retainers but failing to deliver legal services.

In September 2004, a judge in Virginia sentenced Smolka to 6 ½ years in prison for defrauding clients and their families. U.S. District Judge Robert E. Payne ordered Smolka to pay his victims nearly $130,000.

His Oregon sentence, handed down by U.S. District Judge Anna Brown, begins after the one in Virginia concludes, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Peifer.

Smolka is being held at the Federal Corrections Institute in Sheridan, Ore., Peifer said.

Peifer said Smolka fled to Oregon as a fugitive from Virginia.

While in Portland, Smolka met with attorney David Slader, who represents many of Grammond's victims, and claimed that he had been abused by Grammond, even though he had never lived in Oregon.

Slader said he learned of the fraud only when he received a call from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Portland.

"There is a special place in hell reserved for anyone who would masquerade as a victim of priest abuse," Slader told The Associated Press in 2004.

Smolka was convicted of killing his wife in 1993 in Florida, but the conviction was overturned on appeal after he spent 33 months in prison.

His wife, Betty Anne, disappeared in 1991 while the couple was traveling to Florida. She was found shot dead near their van after going to buy light bulbs.


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