John Hedderman, 52, of Stanton faces 13 felonies for allegedly impersonating an attorney.
John Hedderman, 52, of Stanton faces 13 felonies for allegedly impersonating an attorney. (San Mateo County Sheriff's Office)

REDWOOD CITY -- An ex-Southern California attorney on Wednesday pleaded not guilty to passing himself off as a lawyer, a charge sparked by a Peninsula prosecutor's attempt to contact him at his purported office, an official said.

John Hedderman, 52, faces 13 felony charges, including identity theft and witness tampering, for a string of San Mateo County Superior Court appearances he made under the name of a real Orange Court attorney, said chief deputy district attorney Karen Guidotti. Hedderman's defense lawyer Ed Pomeroy didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Hedderman, of Stanton, claimed to be attorney Donald Welch while defending a La Puente man against two felony charges, including possession of stolen property, stemming from a South San Francisco arrest. He allegedly made three separate San Mateo County Court appearances for his client, Ruben Bisceglia, between March and August.

It had been more than a decade since Hedderman had been licensed to practice law in California. He resigned from the State Bar of California in February 2001 and before that had his license suspended for 30 days in 2000 as a result of a list of misconduct accusations, according to bar records.

In a 1995 case, a client paid Hedderman $1,000 in order to file a bankruptcy petition. But Hedderman purportedly took 15 months to do the work, and when he finally did act, the paperwork was completely botched, the bar reported.

The suspected fraud came to light when deputy district attorney Sharon Cho contacted Welch's office to follow up on a court order for restitution payments to a victim in Bisceglia's case. When Welch responded, he said he'd never heard of the case and didn't represent Bisceglia, Guidotti said. The case then ended up in the hands of District Attorney's Office investigators, which led to Hedderman's arrest.

Once investigators began to focus on Hedderman as a suspect, they realized the San Mateo County case wasn't his first foray into impersonation. In fact Hedderman had passed himself off as a lawyer in 2008 in Orange County and ended up being convicted of 12 felonies, authorities said.

Hedderman is out of jail on $50,000 bail and is due back in court February 15 on four counts of practicing law without a license, three charges each of identity theft and burglary.

Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335. Follow him at Twitter.com/melvinreport.