LOS ANGELES (AP) — Disgraced former celebrity Los Angeles attorney Tom Girardi has been indicted by federal grand juries in Los Angeles and Chicago on charges of stealing more than $18 million from clients, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday .

What you need to know

  • Tom Girardi was disbarred last summer for siphoning money intended for customers
  • US prosecutors say Girardi, another attorney and his firm’s accounting chief embezzled money from the settlement
  • Girardi once played a supporting role in ‘Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’, which starred his now ex-wife Erika Jayne
  • Arraignments in federal court are not yet scheduled

The allegations are the latest in a string of legal battles for a once-powerful player who rubbed politicians and celebrities under his thumb as one of the nation’s most prominent attorneys, known for winning settlements like the one portrayed in the movie “Erin Brockovich”. . ”

Girardi billed himself as a champion who won big payouts to compensate people harmed by big corporations, but “robbed and stole from those people,” Los Angeles U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said at a news conference.

“He claimed to be fighting for the less fortunate,” Estrada said. “But our investigation has shown that behind this public personality he committed fraud on a large scale.”

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The plans included stealing money from a couple whose son was paralyzed in a car accident, a widow whose husband died when a boat unexpectedly accelerated at 120 miles per hour (193 kilometers per hour) and overturned, and victims’ relatives in a 2018 Lion Air crash that killed 189 people, the charges said.

Girardi, 83, who once played a supporting role in “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” which starred his now-estranged Erika Jayne, was disbarred last summer for siphoning money intended for clients. His company Girardi Keese is bankrupt and he is said to be suffering from dementia and is under court order.

US prosecutors in Chicago said Girardi, his lawyer, son-in-law and their company’s chief financial officer took money for five clients who settled with Boeing, makers of Indonesia’s Lion Air 737 Max that crashed into the Java Sea in October. crashed. 29, 2018 and killed 189 people.

“The substantial embezzlement alleged in this suit exacerbated the grief and anguish of the customers who lost loved ones in the Lion Air crash,” said John Lausch, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

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A Chicago law firm involved in the Lion Air case filed a racketeering lawsuit last year alleging that Girardi and his associates essentially ran a Ponzi scheme, skipping $100 million from their clients, attorneys that they worked together and others.

“The real story is one that resembles one from a John Grisham novel: Girardi Keese was little more than a criminal enterprise disguised as a law firm,” said the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles by the Edelson law firm. “Indeed, the firm of Girardi Keese operated what we now know to be the largest criminal racketeering operation in plaintiff law history.”

Girardi made his name and made his living by taking on powerful corporations and public institutions, including Hollywood’s major movie studios, Lockheed, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Pacific Gas and Electric in a case that inspired the 2000 film ‘Erin Brockovich’ by Julia Roberts. ”, for which he served as an advisor.

“That particular case revolutionized people’s thinking about all the toxic things they’re exposed to,” he told Attorney at Law magazine in 2015.

Girardi married Jayne in 2000. She joined the cast of ‘Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,’ in which he appeared several times. He spent a lot of money funding a failed musical career for her.

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Jayne filed for divorce in 2020.

Girardi and attorney David Lira, his son-in-law and CFO of the firm Christopher Kamon are facing eight counts of wire fraud and four counts of contempt of court in Chicago.

Girardi, 49, and Kamon are facing charges in Los Angeles on wire fraud for embezzling more than $15 million from customers, prosecutors said.

In one case, detailed in the LA indictment, Girardi settled a case involving a man badly burned in a utility explosion for $53 million. But he told the client that the settlement was $7.25 million.

More than half of the settlement was then embezzled and used to pay expenses, fixed debts and other clients whose funds had also been embezzled. Meanwhile, payments to the burn victim were delayed by a series of delaying tactics.

Online court records do not indicate whether Girardi or the other two men have attorneys on the case.

Kamon is in custody and Girardi is expected to appear in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Monday.

Arraignments are not yet scheduled in Chicago.

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