PHOENIX — A Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office deputy is under investigation for allegedly posing as a defense attorney in a failed attempt to trick a woman and arrest her.
Andy Marcantel, a partner with the Attorneys for Freedom Law Firm, said that Deputy Jeff Miller pretended to be a lawyer at his firm on a phone call four months ago.
“I haven’t ever seen anything close to this,” Marcantel said. “My partners at the law firm who have been practicing for almost three decades have not seen anything like this. My ethics counsel, who was ethics counsel for the state of Arizona State Bar with decades of experience has never seen anything like this. This is crazy, totally outrageous.”
A sheriff’s office spokesperson declined to comment on the matter, saying they don’t discuss pending investigations.
Marcantel represents a minor in a criminal case. The boy’s mother had an outstanding warrant for failing to appear in a separate past case. [ABC15 is not naming the woman to protect her son's identity because the names of minors are confidential in criminal cases.]
The deputy is accused of calling the mother under the ruse to try and lure her to the law firm in order to arrest her. She didn’t fall for it.
“He says, he’s attorney Brown from my law firm,” Marcantel said. “He cites my name, and says, ‘I work for your attorney, Andy Marcantel, and he would like for you to come into today for an interview. We would like to interview you about (your son’s) case.”
The mother apparently grew suspicious and called the law firm, who then called the number back.
“Guess who picks up the phone, Maricopa County Sheriff’s deputy. He says, ‘Hello,’” said Marcantel. “‘Is this someone claiming to be attorney Brown from my law firm?’ Without missing a beat, he says, “Yep, that’s me. I’m trying to get her into custody.’”
Police officers can lie and deceive people during investigations. But impersonating a lawyer raises ethical and constitutional concerns because of legal protections like the attorney-client privilege.
In a statement, the State Bar of Arizona wrote, “No person may practice law in the State of Arizona or represent in any way that he or she may practice law in the State of Arizona unless that person is an active member of the state bar or is otherwise authorized to do so by the Rules of the Supreme Court of Arizona.”
Multiple other defense attorneys contacted by ABC15 were appalled by the allegation and said they had never heard of police posing as a lawyer.
ABC15 found there was a similar allegation in Tennessee more than a decade ago.
According to a 2011 news article, two detectives posed as federal defenders. An appeals court completely dismissed criminal charges in the matter and called their conduct “egregious,” “abhorrent,” “unconscionable,” and “reprehensible.”
Marcantel said his law firm filed a complaint with MCSO several months ago. He said sheriff’s office investigators recently told his staff they are too busy to get it to right now.
After a MCSO spokesperson initially declined to comment, ABC15 asked the sheriff’s office to reconsider because of the nature of the allegations.
The office sent the following response.
“Consistent with every other investigation, MCSO does not comment on pending litigation/investigation. Once the investigation is completed you are free to reach out again with any questions you may have,” wrote Sgt. Monica Bretado.
The sheriff’s office has a massive backlog of internal investigations, court records show. As of January 2021, there were more than 2,000 misconduct cases outstanding.
The average time to complete an internal probe was roughly 500 days.
Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at Dave@ABC15.com.