Jury selection is scheduled to begin Tuesday in the long-awaited federal trial of former superstar Miami attorney Louis Robles, who was charged with mail fraud in the alleged theft of $13.5 million in clients’ settlement money.
The trial is expected to last four weeks before U.S. District Judge Alan Gold.
Neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys wanted a trial. But Gold rejected a plea deal that called for Robles to serve 10 years in prison and recently rejected a request from Assistant Federal Public Defender Hector Flores for a 60-day continuance.
“The sad thing is that neither side wants to try this case,” said David O. Markus, president of the Miami chapter of the Federal Bar Association. “But now that Robles finds himself in trial, he can feel fortunate that he is represented by one of the finest lawyers in Miami. Still, Hector will have his work cut out for him.”
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Luis Perez and Michael Davis are trying the case. Flores is defending Robles along with Assistant Federal Public Defender Raymond Houlihan.
Robles was a nationally known mass torts lawyer and a star in the South Florida legal community. He once had 40 employees on his staff and more than 12,000 class action clients around the country. He focused on asbestos cases, traveling in a van with a doctor and X-ray machine, signing up clients and advertising on national television.
In 2002, the Daily Business Review reported on a four-year investigation into Robles by The Florida Bar. The Bar had received numerous complaints about Robles paying clients little or nothing on their asbestos settlements, charging contingency fees of more than 50 percent and having clients pay for his airfare, food, phone bills and other costs not previously disclosed. He abruptly closed his downtown Miami office in 2002 and soon after filed for bankruptcy.
Robles was disbarred by the Florida Supreme Court in May 2003. In 2006, a federal grand jury indicted him on 41 counts of mail fraud, accusing him of using client trust money to finance movie productions and waste management companies, lease apartments in New York and Los Angeles, and make mortgage payments on his luxurious homes.