Longtime Duluth con man pleads guilty to running fake law firm
The 73-year-old accepted payment from an Arkansas man who was led to believe his case was being handled by retired judges.
MINNEAPOLIS — A prolific Twin Ports con man with a half-century rap sheet admitted Wednesday to operating a fake law firm that swindled at least one client out of $2,500.
Gale Allen Rachuy, 73, of Duluth, pleaded guilty at a hearing in U.S. District Court to a felony count of wire fraud. Described by a judge more than a decade ago as the "epitome of a white-collar career offender," his latest federal indictment was levied by a grand jury in December.
The charges state that Rachuy, who has more than 30 felony convictions on his record, represented himself as a lawyer with 38 years of experience at a fraudulent Duluth-area firm known as "Midwest Legal Services."
The indictment alleged that he accepted and later refused to refund a retainer fee provided by a victim who had contacted him for assistance in filing a post-conviction motion. He reportedly claimed to employ several attorneys, including retired judges from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and Hennepin County District Court.
James B. Mitchell, of Fayetteville, Arkansas, identified himself as the victim of the theft.
"He lies to his victims that he is an attorney when, in reality, he has never even graduated from any law school, and his only legal knowledge has been acquired by spending time in law libraries at the numerous federal and state prisons he has been incarcerated at over the course of his whole adulthood in the past 50 years," Mitchell told the News Tribune last year.
Mitchell and the indictment both state that Rachuy requested a $10,000 retainer fee to be paid in installments. The victim issued the first $2,500 transfer March 15.
"The next $2,500 installment was due two weeks later on April 1, 2022, which I did not pay because of too many red flags in that two weeks giving me reason to suspect Rachuy was scamming me," Mitchell said. "In particular, he refused to provide me with proof that either retired judge was licensed to practice law or was contracting with Midwest Legal Service."
Rachuy, who never provided a draft of the legal documents he promised, later told the victim several times that he would refund the money, but never did so and claimed the former judges were still working on the matter, according to the indictment.
Rachuy most recently was sentenced in 2012 to 7 ½ years in federal prison after pleading guilty to interstate transportation of a stolen motor vehicle. At that time, he had been charged in at least 56 criminal cases involving more than 90 counts of theft and swindling in Minnesota alone dating back to the early 1970s.
Representing himself, he was sentenced in State District Court in Duluth in 2011 to five years — the statutory maximum — after a jury convicted him for writing a dishonored $14,000 check to Duluth Lawn & Sport.
Among other cases, in 1990, while being held in the St. Louis County Jail on charges of felony theft, Rachuy reportedly tried to buy $11,000 of furniture over the phone by representing himself as an executive with the fictitious "Industrial Credit" of Minneapolis. Delivery of the furniture was scheduled when the furniture dealer saw a newspaper report on the charges against Rachuy.
Other cases involved charges of accepting significant down-payments for log homes and additions with no intention of following through, and of buying motor vehicles, fireworks and wedding rings with worthless checks.
Federal prison records show that Rachuy was released from his most recent sentence in May 2020. He has in the past denied being a con man, claiming law enforcement, prosecutors and judges are targeting him based on past convictions.
Rachuy in recent weeks has also been charged in Douglas County Circuit Court with theft by false representation and issuing worthless checks. Court documents allege that he claimed to be a bail bondsman and refused to refund $7,500 that a victim had provided to him.
Wire fraud carries a maximum of 20 years in prison. Senior U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen ordered a presentence investigation and directed Rachuy to remain in federal custody. A sentencing date was not immediately scheduled.