The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office yesterday barred former Silver Spring lawyer Sol Sheinbein from doing business with the agency -- nearly eight years after he helped a teenage son suspected of murder flee the country and 21/2 years after he was disbarred.
Montgomery County police still have an arrest warrant for Sheinbein, 61, for helping his son Samuel, then 17, flee to Israel in 1997. Authorities suspected the teenager of killing an acquaintance and mutilating the body. Sheinbein followed his son overseas five days later.
Until yesterday, Sheinbein's wanted status and disbarment in Maryland and the District had not prevented him from filing at least 64 patent applications on behalf of Israeli clients since 2001, according to a patent office database.
After what it described as a 21/2-year investigation, the patent office announced that Sheinbein was forbidden from doing business with the agency. The decision came one day after inquiries from The Washington Post about why he was allowed to do so.
Brigid Quinn, a patent office spokeswoman, said that the Post's inquiry "has nothing to do" with the timing of the decision and that it came after Sheinbein's appeals over being barred were turned down.
Lawyers charge clients anywhere from $2,000 to more than $20,000 to file a patent application, depending on the complexity of the invention, other patent lawyers said. Besides inventors, only lawyers and other agents registered with the patent office may file applications.
"I'm very relieved," said Henry Quintero, director of the Latino Civil Rights Center of Montgomery County, who initiated disbarment proceedings against Sheinbein. The center pushed for disbarment because the younger Sheinbein's victim, Alfredo Enrique Tello Jr., was Latino.
Quintero said he had been unaware that Sol Sheinbein was doing patent work in the United States, calling it "unconscionable."
"We went after the father," Quintero said, "because we couldn't get to the son."
The brutality of the slaying and the ensuing international dispute over whether Samuel Sheinbein would stand trial in Maryland or Israel made the criminal case one of the Washington region's most notorious.
Montgomery prosecutors said Samuel Sheinbein and Aaron Needle, 17, strangled Tello, 19, and beat him in the head with a sawed-off shotgun on Sept. 16, 1997. Sheinbein and Needle sawed the limbs from the body and burned the torso in the garage of the Sheinbeins' home in the Aspen Hill area of Silver Spring, prosecutors said. The torso was so charred and mutilated that a real estate agent who discovered it in a nearby vacant house initially thought it was the carcass of a deer.
Needle hanged himself in his jail cell in 1998 on the eve of his trial. Samuel Sheinbein pleaded guilty in 1999 to Tello's murder in an Israeli court after successfully fighting extradition to the United States by claiming Israeli citizenship through his father. He was sentenced to 24 years in prison.
Sol Sheinbein could not be reached late yesterday, after midnight in Israel, after the patent office made its announcement.
In a telephone interview earlier yesterday from a law firm in Ramat Gan, Israel, where he said he works on a contract basis, Sheinbein said he no longer presented himself as a patent lawyer. He said he filed applications on behalf of Israeli inventors and companies because he remained a "registered agent" with the patent office. He noted that such agents do not have to be lawyers.
"I don't see the relevancy of that," Sheinbein said of his outstanding arrest warrant. "I meet the requirements of the U.S. patent office."
Sheinbein said he did nothing to hinder police in 1997. He said he met his son in New York, drove him to the airport and bought him a plane ticket to Israel because his son was suicidal and he thought the teenager could "calm down" with relatives there. Though police had served a search warrant on his home that week, he said he was unaware of any warrant for his son's arrest at the time.
He said he sent his older son, Robert, to Israel to bring Samuel back, but Samuel changed his mind and refused to return to the United States. Sheinbein said he learned from a lawyer several days later that his son could claim Israeli citizenship through him and avoid extradition.
"I didn't commit any crime," he said.
The arrest warrant issued in 1998 charges Sol Sheinbein with hindering or obstructing a police investigation. Because it is a misdemeanor, he can be arrested only if he returns to the United States voluntarily.
Sheinbein said he has no plans to do so, but not because of the warrant. He said his life is now in Israel, where his wife and older son also live.
He said they see Samuel, now 24, during weekly visits.
"I'm sad for everyone involved in this case," Sol Sheinbein said. "I think about Mr. Tello and Mr. Needle on a regular basis. I can't say I'm happy."
Staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.