Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Ex-lawyer Tom Girardi found competent to stand trial on embezzlement charges

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A government psychologist has concluded that, despite a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, disgraced former Los Angeles attorney Tom Girardi is competent to stand trial on federal charges of embezzling millions of dollars from clients, according to court papers.

Documents filed Friday, June 9, state that the government’s expert neuropsychologist, Dr. Diana Goldstein, “has concluded her examination and opined, among other things, that defendant is competent to stand trial.”

A hearing is set for Aug. 3 to discuss the matter.

The 84-year-old Girardi — estranged husband of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Erika Jayne — was deemed incompetent to manage his own affairs in June 2021 due to his Alzheimer’s diagnosis. He was disbarred a year later and is living in an Orange County assisted-living facility.

Girardi, who owned the Girardi Keese law firm in downtown Los Angeles, was indicted in February on five counts of wire fraud, a crime that carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years. He is also charged in a second criminal case, filed in Chicago, where he faces eight additional wire fraud counts.

Girardi was allowed to remain free on $250,000 bond.

Also charged in the indictment was Christopher Kamon, 49, formerly of Encino and Palos Verdes, the firm’s former chief financial officer.

The indictment alleges that from 2010 to 2020 Girardi and Kamon fraudulently obtained more than $15 million that belonged to clients.

U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said in February that the defendants engaged in a “widespread scheme to steal from their clients and lie to them to cover up the fraud. In doing so, they allegedly preyed on the very people who trusted and relied upon them the most — their clients.”

Girardi’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

To conceal the theft and misappropriation of settlement money in the Los Angeles case, Girardi and Kamon allegedly lied to clients, stating falsely, among other things, that the funds had not been paid, prosecutors said. Girardi also allegedly falsely told clients that settlement proceeds could not be disbursed until certain purported requirements had been met, such as eliminating purported tax obligations, obtaining supposedly necessary authorizations from judges, and satisfying medical liens, prosecutors said.

Girardi became widely known when he was thanked in the credits of the 2001 Oscar-winning film “Erin Brockovich,” for which he served as an adviser. The attorney was part of the legal team when Brockovich successfully sued Pacific Gas & Electric in 1993 for contaminating the groundwater of a small California town.

Estrada said that, behind a public persona of integrity, for which he received numerous awards and commendations, Girardi was “robbing and stealing from those people he claimed to be championing” and “committing fraud on a massive scale.”

After he was disbarred last year, the State Bar of California said it had received 205 complaints against Girardi alleging he misappropriated settlement money, abandoned clients and committed other serious ethical violations over the course of his four-decade career.

Girardi Keese, famous for representing plaintiffs in large-scale civil litigation against major corporations, collapsed in late 2020 after Girardi was accused in a Chicago lawsuit of embezzling money meant for clients the firm was representing in litigation over an airline crash in Indonesia.

Girardi is in Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings, as is the now-shuttered Wilshire Boulevard law firm that bore his name, which faces more than $500 million in claims.

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