Tom Girardi has been charged with embezzling at least $3 million from a settlement fund for crash victims.
In total, federal prosecutors said his firm pocketed more than $18 million owed to clients.
A former high-profile Los Angeles lawyer whose legal efforts were once the subject of a Julia Roberts movie was indicted in two different cities on federal charges and accused of siphoning more than $18 million from clients.
On Wednesday, former lawyer Tom Girardi was indicted by federal grand juries in Los Angeles and Chicago on several charges of wire fraud and criminal contempt. The indictments represent the culmination of years of legal troubles for Girardi, who is charged with embezzling at least $3 million from victims of the 2018 Lion Air Flight 610 in Indonesia to pay his firm's legal and American Express card bills.
A representative for Tom Girardi did not immediately return Insider's request for comment.
Girardi and his firm, known for taking on big corporations, represented families of victims who died in the 2018 crash, where a Boeing 737 Max crashed into the Java Sea minutes after taking off, killing all 189 passengers on board.
Girardi's firm reached a $12.55 million settlement for the clients, according to CBS.
Prosecutors have charged Girardi and his colleague and son-in-law David Lira with eight counts of wire fraud and four counts of criminal contempt in a Chicago court, accusing them of embezzling $3 million from the settlement funds for the plane crash's victims, according to The New York Times. Former CFO Christopher Kamon is also facing the wire fraud charges.
"The substantial misappropriation alleged in this indictment compounded the grief and anguish of the clients who lost loved ones in the Lion Air crash," U.S. Attorney John Lausch said of the indictment, according to CBS. The FBI alleged that he used the money to fund a "lavish lifestyle," The Times reported.
Girardi's rise to legal stardom was meteoric, as he represented environmental activist Erin Brockovich in her 1996 lawsuit against Pacific Gas & Electric in 1993 which accused the utility company of contaminating water and giving California residents medical issues, according to ABC News. The case settled for $333 million and helped set a precedent in environmental law.
Julia Roberts later played the activist in the movie and won the award for best actress at the Oscars in 2001.
Girardi's estrangement from his former wife, "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" star Erika Jayne, has taken center stage in his fall from grace. Jayne filed for divorce in 2020, and Girardi, now 83, was diagnosed with dementia in 2021 and checked into a memory care facility. His brother now serves as his conservator. Girardi's lawyers have claimed that he is not mentally sound to participate in proceedings, per The Times.
In December 2022, Girardi's law firm, Girardi Keese, declared bankruptcy after it was unable to pay back close to $101 million that had been loaned out, according to court documents.
Last year, as his legal woes built up, he was disbarred in California.
According to Bloomberg, Jayne has been named in a 2022 lawsuit that accused Girardi's firm of embezzling settlement funds to use between family and friends, and a previous lawsuit, which accused their divorce of being a "sham" to move money, was dismissed.
"Here, the truth is that Erika had no role in the Lion Air dealings, actions, or inaction as between the attorneys and their clients, and she never received any of the Lion Air client settlement funds," Evan Borges, Jayne's attorney, told Page Six last year.
Jayne's lawyer did not immediately return Insider's request for comment.
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