A former California attorney who was disbarred in 2017 and is accused of defrauding his clients out of more than $4 million has entered into a plea agreement. The 36-year-old former litigator pleaded guilty to a single count of felony wire fraud in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on June 6 and is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 12. He faces a maximum prison term of 20 years.
The man admitted to using various deceptive means to convince his clients that he had secured favorable resolutions to their legal problems. Federal prosecutors say that he went as far as providing falsified legal documents, forging checks and disguising his voice during phone calls to keep the scheme going. He is said to have forged a judge's signature on one of the documents. Prosecutors believe the man's illegal activities began in May 2012 and ended with his December 2017 disbarment.
Prosecutors say that several of the man's clients were unable to obtain civil remedies because the time limit for their claims provided by California's statute of limitations had expired when they discovered that they had been defrauded. The man's wife also faces one count of wire fraud. She has not entered into a plea agreement and is scheduled to go on trial on July 16.
Criminal defense attorneys with experience in cases involving federal crimes may advise their clients to consider a negotiated plea agreement when presented with a set of facts like these. This is because documents that could be difficult to refute are usually the most compelling evidence in white collar crime cases. The penalties for fraud and embezzlement can be severe, but federal prosecutors may be willing to reduce them substantially to avoid the expense and risks of a trial.
Source: Pasadena News Now, "Former Pasadena Lawyer Pleads Guilty to $4 Million Wire Fraud", Staff report, June 7, 2019