LOS ANGELES – A personal injury attorney who was recently suspended by the California State Bar was indicted today on federal charges that allege he stole the majority of a multi-million dollar client settlement, most of which should have been paid to the victim of an automobile accident.
Philip James Layfield, 44, who was arrested in New Jersey last week after returning to the United States from his new residence in Costa Rica, was named in a three-count indictment returned this afternoon by a federal grand jury.
Layfield, who is also certified public accountant, is charged with mail fraud and two counts of money laundering. Layfield will be arraigned on the indictment once he arrives in Los Angeles after being transported from New Jersey by the United States Marshals Service.
Layfield owned and operated the Layfield & Barrett law firm (L&B), which maintained offices in Irvine, Los Angeles, and other locations. Faced with declining revenues, Lawfield decided to close the firm and relocate to Costa Rica. Around that time, according to the indictment, Layfield took a number of steps that defrauded his clients, including filing unnecessary litigation to trigger increased attorney’s fees, settling personal injury cases without advising L&B clients, and stealing settlement funds that should have been paid to clients.
The indictment specifically alleges that Layfield entered into an agreement to represent an individual who was struck by an automobile in Orange County in 2016 and suffered significant injuries. After negotiating a $3.9 million settlement related to the accident, Layfield allegedly misappropriated most of money due to the victim – approximately $2 million. The indictment alleges that he transferred some of the victim’s share to his personal bank accounts and some on L&B payroll. The indictment states that the car accident victim received only $25,000 of the settlement proceeds.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
If he were to be convicted of the three counts in the indictment, Layfield would face a statutory maximum sentence of 60 years in federal prison.
This matter is being investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, IRS Criminal Investigation, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The case against Layfield is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Mark Aveis and Eddie A. Jauregui of the Major Frauds Section.
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