Tom Girardi, the once-vaunted Los Angeles trial attorney, was indicted by federal grand juries in two states on fraud charges amid allegations of swindling millions of dollars from injured and wounded clients, prosecutors announced Wednesday.
In Chicago, Girardi and his son-in-law, attorney David Lira, and the former chief financial officer of Girardi’s law firm, Christopher Kamon, were charged with eight counts of wire fraud and four counts of contempt of court. Prosecutors said they misappropriated more than $3 million in settlement funds from the relatives of those who died in an Indonesian plane crash.
In Los Angeles, Girardi was charged with wire fraud following accusations of embezzling more than $15 million from clients and using the funds to cover his law firm’s payroll and pay his personal expenses, including a hefty American Express bill and fees at two country clubs. The L.A. case also includes charges against Kamon, the former CFO, and indicates that he and his boss “devised, participated in, and executed a scheme to defraud victim clients” from 2010 until the firm, Girardi Keese, collapsed in late 2020.
The prosecution marks the latest chapter in Girardi’s downfall and follows extensive reporting by The Times on how Girardi eluded discipline by the State Bar despite facing decades of credible accusations of misappropriating his clients’ money.
“Mr. Girardi and Mr. Kamon stand accused of engaging in a widespread scheme to steal from their clients and lie to them to cover up the fraud,” the U.S. attorney in L.A., Martin Estrada, said in a statement. “In doing so, they allegedly preyed on the very people who trusted and relied upon them the most — their clients. Actions like the ones alleged in the indictment bring disrepute upon the legal profession and will not be tolerated by my office.”
In Chicago, U.S. Attorney John R. Lausch Jr. said of Lira and Girardi: “Attorneys who violate the trust of their clients and breach a fiduciary duty that is paramount to the practice of law must be held accountable.”
Representatives for Girardi, Lira and Kamon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The prosecution of the 83-year-old former attorney, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease by a physician in March 2021, sets the stage for a legal battle over whether Girardi is fit to stand trial.
Now living in a memory care facility in Orange County, Girardi is subject to a court-ordered conservatorship that gives his younger brother, Robert, a dentist in Seal Beach, authority to make decisions for him about healthcare and finances.
Conservatorship records indicate that Girardi has been prescribed medication for dementia and is also suffering from blindness in one eye and “hearing issues.”
In L.A. legal circles, many have questioned whether the legal legend claimed dementia to avoid the consequences of his misconduct. The first assertion that he has serious cognitive problems was through a criminal defense lawyer at a December 2020 hearing where a federal court judge was confronting him with evidence that he had stolen millions from clients.
Officials from the State Bar of California even went to court to challenge the conservatorship a few weeks after the diagnosis, saying that the proceeding was occurring under “highly unusual circumstances” and that the evidence of impairment was “sparse.” In a filing, they noted that the month before the claim of cognitive problems, Girardi had hosted a continuing education class for lawyers on complex litigation strategies. Agency officials asked for more extensive neurological testing for the lawyer, but the request was denied.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.