Former Girardi Keese attorneys Thomas V. Girardi and David R. Lira, along with the now-defunct firm’s head of accounting and finance, Christopher K. Kamon, have been indicted for wire fraud and criminal contempt after misappropriating millions in client funds.
All three men are accused of using those moneys to pay firm law firm expenses including payroll, as well us taking some of those funds to repay clients whose settlement funds they’d already misused, some of which allegedly went to paying American Express credit card bills.
“Mr. Girardi and Mr. Kamon allegedly created a mirage over several years in order to disguise the fact that they were robbing Girardi Keese clients of large sums of money” Amir Ehsaei, acting Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, said in a statement issued by the US Attorney’s Office there announcing charges in one of two indictments. “The defendants exploited the hardships endured by their clients and took advantage of their unfamiliarity with the legal process while they denied victims what was rightfully due to them in order to fund their lavish lifestyles.”
One indictment, filed Tuesday in the US District Court for the Central District of California and made public Wednesday, alleges five counts of wire fraud, claiming that Girardi and Kamon together defrauded clients out of more than $15 million over the course of about 10 years. The other, filed Wednesday at the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, alleges 12 criminal counts, with eight counts of wire fraud under 18 U.S.C. §1343 and four counts of criminal contempt under 18 U.S.C. 401(3).
Lira, who had been a partner in the defunct and bankrupt firm, is named only in the Illinois indictment. His attorney, Damon Cheronis of Chicago, didn’t immediately reply to an emailed request for comment on the allegations. Neither did Kamon’s attorney, Jack DiCanio, of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.
Girardi, who became separated from “Real Housewives” star Erika Jayne in 2020, has been diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s and has had a conservator appointed to act on his behalf.
Both the man and his firm were placed in involuntary bankruptcy in 2020. Leonard Pena, counsel for Robert Girardi, Thomas Girardi’s brother and representative, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Kamon was taken into federal custody on a separate wire fraud charge in December. According to the government, the Girardi Keese chief financial officer was embezzling funds from the law firm, too. After waiving indictment, Kamon pleaded not guilty on those charges.
Judge Thomas M. Durkin in Chicago made a criminal referral to Northern District of Illinois prosecutors in December 2020, after local co-counsel who represented family members of individuals killed aboard Lion Air flight 610 off Indonesia in 2018 notified the court that their clients hadn’t been paid millions in settlement dollars Boeing paid for their benefit in 737 Max airliner defect litigation.
The Illinois indictment, which is limited to alleged misappropriation from the Lion Air clients, seeks forfeiture of all alleged criminal proceeds, including, but not limited to, a personal money judgment of $3,069,500.
Martin Estrada, the US Attorney in Los Angeles, said Girardi will make his first court appearance on Feb. 6. “We’ll leave it up to the court to determine competency issues,” Estrada said at a press conference Wednesday in Los Angeles.
Girardi is accused of having stolen from his clients from 2010 to 2020. “He was competent during that time,” Estrada said. The investigation is ongoing, the prosecutor said, encouraging other victims to come forward.
In both indictments, Girardi and Kamon—with and without Lira—allegedly lied to clients about the status of funds from cases settled on their behalf, stating among other things, that the money had not been paid.
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 and other debts, according to Estrada’s press statement.
“Girardi and Kamon allegedly also sent lulling payments to clients, falsely representing that the payments were ‘advances’ on purportedly yet-to-be-received settlement proceeds that, in fact, had already been deposited in Girardi Keese accounts, or were ‘interest payments’ on the settlement money that purportedly could not be paid to the clients until the fabricated requirements were met,” the prosecutor said.
The cases are United States v. Girardi, N.D. Ill., 23-cr-54, 2/1/23 and United States v. Girardi, C.D. Cal., 23-cr-47, 2/1/23.
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