Former celebrity lawyer Tom Girardi accused of embezzling $18M in client money

Tom Girardi, a disbarred Los Angeles celebrity lawyer and the estranged husband of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Erika Jayne, is accused of embezzling more than $18 million from several clients who had been subjected to catastrophic injuries or the deaths of loved ones, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday.

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Girardi, 83, of Pasadena, California, was indicted by federal grand juries in Los Angeles and Chicago, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois, Girardi was charged with eight counts of wire fraud and four counts of criminal contempt of court for allegedly diverting more than $3 million in settlement money stemming from a Lion Air crash that plunged into the Java Sea off the coast of Indonesia in October 2018 in order to fund his California law firm.

In addition to Girardi, also indicted in Illinois were his son-in-law, David Lira, 62, of Pasadena; and Christopher Kamon, 49, of Palo Verdes, California, the chief financial officer of Girardi’s law firm, Girardi Keese.

According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, Girardi is accused of wire fraud for allegedly embezzling more than $15 million from clients, the Los Angeles Times reported. Prosecutors said that Girardi used the money to cover his firm’s payroll and his personal expenses, including large credit card bills and fees for two country clubs, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Girardi was charged with five counts of wire fraud, according to the news release in California.

Kamon was also charged in California for working with Girardi to defraud victims from 2010 until the firm closed in late 2020, the Times reported.

Prosecutors said the schemes included stealing money from a Los Angeles couple whose son was paralyzed in a car wreck in July 2019, the news release stated.

Girardi was known for high-profile litigation such as the case that led to a $333 million settlement that was portrayed in the movie “Erin Brockovich,” The Associated Press reported.

“Mr. Girardi was widely celebrated for being a champion of those fighting against corporations, but our investigation has revealed that, in fact, Mr. Girardi was robbing and stealing from those people,” Martin Estrada, the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, said in a statement on Wednesday. According to the Times, Estrada said the charges point to “corruption by one of the most high-profile plaintiff’s lawyers in the country.”

“He claimed to be fighting for those who are less fortunate, but our investigation has revealed that behind this public persona, Mr. Girardi and Mr. Kamon were committing fraud on a massive scale,” Estrada told reporters.

Girardi was disbarred in California in July 2022, according to KABC-TV He has since been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and has been placed under a conservatorship.