Tom Girardi makes court appearance after fraud indictment
For once, Tom Girardi remained silent in court.
The disgraced lawyer legend said nothing Monday afternoon during a first appearance in federal court in Los Angeles on charges of wire fraud, which prosecutors said was part of a long-standing plot to harass clients.
Girardi, 83, sat stone-faced as a magistrate, a prosecutor and two public defenders appointed to represent him discussed the mental health of the once-powerful lawyer, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease two years ago.
U.S. District Judge Karen Stevenson said she reviewed the medical records filed by Girardi’s attorneys under Siegel and concluded that “there is reasonable grounds to believe that the defendant suffers from a mental illness or defect.” ‘ which would render him unable to understand the proceedings or assist his lawyers.
Stevenson pleaded not guilty on behalf of Girardi to five counts of wire fraud, covering more than $15 million allegedly stolen from customers’ settlement funds. She directed the prosecutor and Girardi’s lawyers to begin a competency process that will include an assessment by an independent medical expert.
Prosecutors agreed to the test with the US Atty’s assistant. Scott Paetty said: “The Government is not opposed and understands that competence on this matter will be an issue.”
Meanwhile, Girardi remains at large. Stevenson said Girardi could continue his current form of life — the memorial ward of an Orange County nursing home — without electronic surveillance like an ankle bracelet.
“There will be no custody here,” Stevenson said.
Girardi’s younger brother Robert, who was named his guardian two years ago, attended the hearing and agreed to sign an affidavit agreeing to his brother’s appearance at the hearing, in exchange for a $250,000 penalty.
When asked by the judge if he understood the responsibility he was taking on, Robert Girardi, a Seal Beach dentist, replied, “I’m fully aware, yes, Your Honor.”
The judge barred Girardi from selling or transferring assets worth more than $5,000 without notifying the court.
What assets Girardi still has remains unknown. He was forced into bankruptcy, his homes were sold, and his belongings were auctioned to pay off creditors.
Defendants are usually required to surrender their passports. Supervising Deputy Public Defender Craig Harbaugh said Girardi – who once traveled on a private plane with his wife, “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Erika – cannot locate his passport.
“If it’s recovered, it’s surrendered,” Harbaugh said.
For decades, Girardi strode the halls of LA courthouses in neat suits with silk ties and matching pocket squares, but on Monday afternoon he shuffled into the courtroom in a rumpled plum-colored sweater and baggy pants. As the judge went through the conditions he must abide by while awaiting further proceedings, Girardi absentmindedly stroked a clump of his white hair.
He faces a second indictment next month in Chicago, where a grand jury indicted him, his son-in-law, attorney David Lira, and his former chief financial officer, Chris Kamon, on multiple counts of wire fraud tied to $3 million , by a settlement with Indonesian widows and orphans.
In the Chicago case, Girardi is scheduled to appear remotely on March 3 to answer charges, while Lira is scheduled to appear remotely on Friday for his indictment. Kamon has been in federal custody since November after prosecutors accused him of operating an alleged “side fraud” at Girardi’s law firm and accused him of embezzling millions to fund a lavish lifestyle.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2023-02-06/tom-girardi-makes-first-court-appearance-after-fraud-indictment Tom Girardi makes court appearance after fraud indictment