Former Excessive-Profile Lawyer Is Charged With Embezzling Extra Than $18 Million

Tom Girardi, a former high-profile trial lawyer identified for profitable a document settlement for the environmental activist Erin Brockovich, has been indicted by federal grand juries in Los Angeles and Chicago on costs that he embezzled greater than $18 million from purchasers, prosecutors mentioned on Wednesday.

Mr. Girardi was charged with 5 counts of wire fraud in Los Angeles for stealing cash from purchasers from 2010 to 2020. As well as, Mr. Girardi and David Lira, a lawyer in Mr. Girardi’s Los Angeles legislation agency, Girardi Keese, face eight counts of wire fraud and 4 counts of felony contempt of court docket in Chicago for misappropriating greater than $3 million in settlement funds that had been speculated to go to households of victims of the 2018 Lion Air crash in Indonesia, in keeping with prosecutors. Mr. Lira is Mr. Girardi’s son-in-law.

And Christopher Kamon, the previous chief monetary officer of Girardi Keese, faces costs in Los Angeles and Chicago.

“Mr. Girardi and Mr. Kamon stand accused of participating in a widespread scheme to steal from their purchasers and misinform them to cowl up the fraud,” Martin Estrada, the U.S. lawyer for the Central District of California, mentioned in an announcement. “In doing so, they allegedly preyed on the very individuals who trusted and relied upon them probably the most — their purchasers.”

Within the assertion, Amir Ehsaei, the appearing assistant director in control of the F.B.I.’s discipline workplace in Los Angeles, added that the defendants had exploited the hardships endured by their purchasers and “denied victims what was rightfully because of them with a purpose to fund their lavish existence.”

Mr. Girardi, 83, for years earned a fame for being one of many nation’s finest “poisonous tort” legal professionals, taking up private harm lawsuits towards giant firms for damages arising from publicity to chemical compounds and pollution. He was a part of the authorized crew when Ms. Brockovich went after Pacific Gasoline & Electrical in 1993, a case that later impressed the 2000 film “Erin Brockovich,” starring Julia Roberts within the title position.

However in recent times, Mr. Girardi’s fame has fallen into disrepute. As former purchasers filed lawsuits towards him for embezzlement, his agency was pressured out of business, and most of his belongings had been frozen. His spouse, Erika Jayne, who appeared on the truth TV sequence “The Actual Housewives of Beverly Hills,” filed for divorce in 2020 after twenty years of marriage. He was disbarred in California final 12 months.

Damon Cheronis, Mr. Lira’s lawyer, mentioned that Mr. Lira supposed to enter a plea of not responsible. “David Lira shouldn’t be Tom Girardi — he didn’t steal from his purchasers and he shouldn’t be criminally charged for Girardi’s misconduct,” he mentioned. It was not instantly clear who was representing Mr. Girardi and Mr. Kamon.

Based on the indictment in Illinois, Mr. Girardi, Mr. Kamon, 49, and Mr. Lira, 62, stole cash from 5 purchasers whose relations had been killed within the 2018 aircraft crash. As an alternative of giving the settlement cash to their purchasers, they used most of it to settle the agency’s payroll and working bills, in addition to to pay different purchasers whose personal settlement funds had been misappropriated by the agency, in keeping with the indictment.

In California, Mr. Girardi and Mr. Kamon are accused of pocketing many of the settlement cash from purchasers and transferring only a small quantity to them. They advised the purchasers that these small funds had been merely advances and that the remainder of the funds had not but been obtained, the indictment mentioned.

In a single instance laid out by prosecutors, Mr. Girardi in 2019 negotiated a $17.5 million settlement of a lawsuit associated to accidents sustained in a automobile accident by two purchasers and their youngster, who was paralyzed within the crash. As an alternative of transferring the kid’s portion of the settlement cash right into a belief, Mr. Girardi and Mr. Kamon used the settlement cash to pay for the legislation agency’s working bills unrelated to the automobile accident litigation, whereas delivering purchasers only a fraction of what was owed to them, prosecutors mentioned.

Mr. Girardi is predicted to look in U.S. District Court docket in Los Angeles on Monday for arraignment. The California costs carry a statutory most sentence of 20 years in federal jail.

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