LAWFUEL – The Law Newswire – R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Jonathan I. Solomon, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, announced today that defendant Louis S. Robles, 59, was sentenced before U.S. District Court Judge Alan S. Gold today to 15 years of imprisonment, and was ordered to pay $13,522,159.92 in restitution to the victims of his offenses, followed by three years of supervised release. Robles was previously charged with three (3) counts of mail fraud in connection with his misappropriation of $13.5 million of settlement monies from clients afflicted with asbestos-related injuries and illnesses.
According to the written statement of facts filed on September 18, 2007 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in connection with Robles’s guilty plea, Robles was a Miami-based lawyer who represented clients who suffered from asbestos-related illness or injuries in lawsuits against companies that manufactured, distributed, or used asbestos. From the late 1980s through February 2003, Robles represented more than 7,000 asbestos clients. Starting as early as at least April 1994, Robles misappropriated settlement proceeds from trust accounts that he maintained on behalf of his asbestos clients.
According to the written statement of facts, Robles defrauded his asbestos clients through a pyramid-type scheme. Asbestos clients from whom Robles would misappropriate settlement proceeds would not be paid until after Robles misappropriated settlement proceeds from other clients. Because of Robles’s continuing misappropriation of asbestos client funds, his asbestos clients experienced ever-increasing delays in receiving settlement proceeds, as Robles defrauded them of ever-increasing sums. By March 1996, Robles had misappropriated approximately $3 million in asbestos client settlement proceeds. By September 30, 2002, the total had grown to $13,522,159.92, which represents the sum that Robles siphoned from a total of 4,393 defrauded clients. In an attempt to stem off complaints from his defrauded asbestos clients, Robles sent out newsletters that falsely claimed that he was withholding settlement proceeds until the various clients’ suits were settled against all asbestos defendants who had been sued on behalf of the clients.
According to court records, Robles used the misappropriated funds for purposes that included financing his personal lifestyle expenses. These included supporting his 9,000 square-foot waterfront home on Key Biscayne, Florida, that carried a monthly mortgage of over $48,000. Robles also paid substantial sums for domestic help and other household expenses and improvements on the property. At different times during the fraud scheme, Robles and his then-wife were spending over $2 million dollars annually in mortgage payments and various living and travel expenses. Robles also invested and lost millions of dollars in various start-up ventures in the motion picture business, the recording business, and the waste management and recycling business.
United States Attorney R. Alexander Acosta stated, “Attorney Louis Robles abused the special trust that his clients placed in him. Robles sought out clients who were dying and cheated them out of millions of dollars, so that he could finance his own extravagant lifestyle. We hope that today’s sentence and court-ordered restitution will alleviate some of the suffering he caused to asbestos victims and their families.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge Jonathan I. Solomon stated, “Robles had a fiduciary responsibility to his clients to ensure that settlement funds were handled properly. The money was not to be used as his own personal piggy bank, funding a luxurious lifestyle on the backs of his clients’ misfortune. The FBI will continue to give top priority to these types of cases that have such a tremendous impact on so many individuals.”
Mr. Acosta commended the investigative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Mr. Acosta also expressed appreciation for the assistance of the Florida Bar. The FBI’s investigation was launched following a referral from the Florida Bar that stemmed from its investigation into Robles’s billing practices. This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael S. Davis, Luis M. Pérez, and Charles E. Duross, with the assistance of Financial Auditor Harold Weiss, also of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.