LOS ANGELES (AP) — Disbarred lawyer Tom Girardi had not guilty pleas entered on his behalf Monday on charges he embezzled millions of dollars from some of the massive settlements he won for clients during a once prominent career.
Girardi, 83, is charged in Los Angeles federal court with wire fraud for allegedly stealing more than $15 million from clients that included an Arizona widow whose husband was killed in boat accident, a Los Angeles couple injured in a car wreck that paralyzed their son and a man who was severely burned in the 2010 San Bruno gas pipeline explosion.
As one of the nation’s most prominent plaintiff’s attorneys, Girardi took on powerful corporations, movie studios and Pacific Gas and Electric in a case that led to a $333 million settlement, which was portrayed in the 2000 Julia Roberts film “Erin Brockovich.”
But Girardi's law empire collapsed and he faces mounting legal problems.
He lost his law license last year because of client thefts, creditors of his bankrupt Girardi Keese firm are seeking more than $500 million and he's in divorce proceedings with Erika Jayne, who starred on “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”
He's gone from living in a mansion in Pasadena to an assisted living facility memory care unit, where attorneys say he has Alzheimer's and is under a court conservatorship.
Girardi also faces federal wire fraud charges in Chicago, where he is accused of stealing about $3 million from family members of victims in a 2018 Lion Air crash that killed 189 people.
Public defenders in LA are seeking a mental competency evaluation for Girardi that will determine if he can stand trial.
Girardi, wearing a purple V-neck sweater and blue shirt, appeared to be frail as he walked slowly into a federal courthouse in front of cameras. He was released on a $250,000 bond.
Girardi is charged in California and Illinois alongside his firm's chief financial officer, Christopher Kamon, 49, who did not appear in court Monday. He is jailed on a separate wire fraud case in which he’s accused of embezzling law firm funds to renovate two LA-area homes, pay for shopping sprees and hire an escort.
Kamon is due in a Chicago court Tuesday. Girardi’s arraignment there is scheduled for March 3.
Girardi's son-in-law David Lira, 62, also faces charges in the Chicago case and is scheduled for arraignment Friday. His lawyer said he will plead not guilty.
Brian Melley, The Associated Press