LAWFUEL – Press Release Service – 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 the unsealing of an Indictment charging defendant, Louis S. Robles with forty-one (41) counts of mail fraud in connection with his misappropriation of $13.5 million of settlement monies from clients’ trust accounts. The Indictment also contains a criminal forfeiture provision seeking a money judgment for $13,500,000. Restraining orders have been issued by Judge Alan S. Gold to freeze two of Robles’ bank accounts and two investment accounts. Robles made his initial appearance in federal court today before the U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen T. Brown. The case has been assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Alan S. Gold.
According to the Indictment, Robles used client trust account money for his personal benefit, including financing his movie production and waste management companies, leasing apartments in New York and Los Angeles, making mortgage payments of up to $101,000 per month on four different properties, including a 9,000 square-foot waterfront mansion in Key Biscayne, and paying his ex-wife’s alimony, as well as payments to other clients.
United States Attorney R. Alexander Acosta stated, “Lawyers hold a special position of trust, responsibility, and loyalty toward their clients. Lawyers are defenders of the law; they are not above the law. Louis Robles abused the trust of his clients, stole their money, and spent it on himself and his various business ventures. This case offers a sobering reminder of the potential consequences when a lawyer breaches his duty of honesty by placing his own interests ahead of those of his clients.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge Jonathan I.. Solomon stated, “Louis Robles was expected to serve his clients’ best interests and to be a faithful guardian of the monies entrusted to him. His actions denied thousands of victims the honest services of a trusted attorney and appropriate access to the judicial system. Robles took an oath as a member of the Florida Bar to champion his clients’ cause and instead betrayed them through his criminal behavior that served only his personal interests.”
According to the Indictment, Robles practiced law through various law firms (“the Robles Firms”), primarily representing thousands of workers who suffered from asbestos exposure. By May 2003, Robles had more than 7,000 asbestos clients. As the owner of the Robles Firms, Robles controlled the firm’s finances, including the disbursement of settlement monies to asbestos clients from client trust accounts. Under the Rules of Professional Conduct, Robles was required to maintain client funds and property separate and apart from his own accounts.
According to the Indictment, Robles, acting contrary to his fiduciary duty and duty of loyalty as an attorney, misappropriated trust monies belonging to his asbestos clients and used this money for his own personal and business purposes. Specifically, in April 1994, Louis Robles stopped the automatic disbursement to his clients of settlement funds he had received on their behalf, and directed that no disbursements be made without his prior authorization. At around the same time, Robles began requesting bulk withdrawals of funds from client trust accounts without his clients’ knowledge or consent. According to court records, over time, the gap between settlements moneys received versus settlements paid grew until by September 30, 2002, the gap exceeded $13,522,000.
According to the Indictment, Robles further defrauded his clients by making materially false statements regarding his receipt of settlement funds from asbestos corporate defendants. Between April 1994 and February 19, 2003, Robles caused mailings to be sent to his asbestos clients falsely stating that the payment of their claims would be delayed due to the bankruptcies of certain asbestos corporate defendants. In fact, Robles had already received settlement checks for many of his asbestos clients from several of those same asbestos corporate defendants before their bankruptcies.
In short, according to the Indictment, Robles concealed from his clients that he had received or deposited settlement funds on their behalf, caused his clients to be falsely informed that settlement funds had not been received when, in fact, he had received them, and lastly, concealed from, his clients that their settlement funds had been used for purposes unrelated to their own cases.
As the result of numerous complaints, The Florida Bar initiated proceedings against Robles. Facing that investigation and a $13.5 million deficit in the Asbestos Trust Accounts, Robles ordered a review of the Robles Firms’ financial records to find “costs” that he could allege were legitimately incurred, but inadvertently uncharged, to cover the $13.5 million shortfall. Thereafter, Robles directed that a fraudulent one-time retroactive back charge of $12.1 million in costs be charged to his asbestos clients to conceal his misappropriation of funds from the Asbestos Trust Accounts.
Mr. Acosta commended the investigative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Charles E. Duross.
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 .List your legal jobs on the LawFuel Network