September 22, 2023

lascala-agadir

Equality opinion

Judge holds attorney husband of RHOBH star Erika Jayne and his law firm in contempt

A federal judge held the lawyer husband of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Erika Jayne and his law firm in civil contempt Monday, finding he misappropriated at least $2 million in client funds intended for the families of those killed in the devastating 2018 Lion Air crash.

During a contempt hearing in Chicago earlier today, US District Judge Thomas Durkin called Thomas Girardi’s conduct ‘unconscionable’ and said he was referring him to the U.S. attorney’s office for criminal investigation.

Girardi’s assets were also frozen by the judge, as were the assets of his Los Angeles-based law firm, Girardi Keese.

Durkin warned the 81-year-old that the ‘simple way to cure all of this’ is to pay at least four Illinois-based clients he said are each owed a half-million dollars. 

‘These are widows and orphans,’ the judge told Girardi, according to the Chicago Sun Times. ‘Half a million dollars for any one of these families is a significant amount of money. Life changing, given the tragedy they went through.’

Thomas Girardi’s conduct was called ‘unconscionable’ by a Chicago judge Monday, who said he was referring the case to the U.S. attorney’s office for criminal investigation

Erika Jayne

Thomas Girardi’s  (left) conduct was called ‘unconscionable’ by a Chicago judge Monday, who said he was referring the case to the U.S. attorney’s office for criminal investigation. Girardi’s wife Erika Jayne (right) filed for divorce last month

Girardi’s legal woes stem from the crash of Lion Air Flight 610, a Boeing 737 Max, which crashed into the ocean off Indonesia in October 2018, killing all 189 passengers on board. He had represented four Illinois-based families in a suit against Boeing

Girardi’s legal woes stem from the crash of Lion Air Flight 610, a Boeing 737 Max, which crashed into the ocean off Indonesia in October 2018, killing all 189 passengers on board. He had represented four Illinois-based families in a suit against Boeing

Girardi is one of the nation’s leading civil lawyers, and gained notoriety in 1993 for his role in a lawsuit against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company of California that went on to inspire the 2000 movie Erin Brockovich.

More recently, he also made frequent appearances on the Real House Wives of Beverly Hills, alongside his now-estranged third-wife, TV personality Erika Jayne.

During Monday’s contempt hearing, Girardi’s attorneys claimed he did not currently possess the $2 million owed to his clients.

Attorney Evan Jenness told the judge her client’s firm, Girardi Keese, had about $15,000 in its operating accounts, the LA Times reported.

‘They were unable to make payroll more recently,’ she told the judge, also citing ‘obligations and debts’, in addition to an upcoming family court battle with Jayne over their assets.

Jayne, 49, filed for the divorce against the 81-year-old last month after 21 years of marriage.

‘No matter what your personal financial situation is, no matter what kind of pressures you are under, if you touch client money, you are going to be disbarred and quite possibly charged criminally,’ Durkin told Girardi, adding that such a notion is ‘ethics 101’.

‘You learn that in law school,’ the judge continued, ‘and someone as experienced as Mr. Girardi knows that as well as anyone.’

Jayne, 49, filed for the divorce against the 81-year-old last month after 21 years of marriage (pictured together during an episode of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills)

Jayne, 49, filed for the divorce against the 81-year-old last month after 21 years of marriage (pictured together during an episode of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills)

While the terms of the settlement are confidential, remarks made in court indicate that each  of Girardi's clients was to be paid $2 million, however only received around 75 percent of the money owed to them.

While the terms of the settlement are confidential, remarks made in court indicate that each  of Girardi’s clients was to be paid $2 million, however only received around 75 percent of the money owed to them. 

Girardi attended the hearing via telephone, speaking only once to confirm his name.

When pressed by the judge to explain what happened to the money, one of Girardi’s attorneys interjected: ‘I’ve advised him to decline that,’ according to the Chicago Sun Times.

His attorneys also insisted Girardi had been unable to help them in preparing a defense for the hearing and voiced concerns about his mental competency.

‘I’m unsure that he understands either the nature or the gravity of the current situation,’ Jenness told the judge, adding that she wants her client to undergo a mental competency examination.

A lawyer for the plane crash victim’s families called Jenness’ claims a ‘sham’, according to the Times.

Attorney Jay Edelson, who first alerted the judge to the misappropriated funds, claimed that Girardi was attempting to offer him money to make the contempt hearing go away.

The judge ordered that a trustee be appointed to reside over Girardi and his firm’s remaining funds.

Durkin asserted that his priority was to ensure that Girardi’s clients receive their entire settlement.

Girardi’s legal woes stem from the crash of Lion Air Flight 610, a Boeing 737 Max, which plummeted into the Java Sea, off Indonesia, in October 2018, killing all 189 passengers on board. The 737 Max has since been grounded indefinitely by Boeing after an investigation uncovered catastrophic issues with its anti-stall software.

The missing funds are part of a settlement Girardi and his firm negotiated from Boeing for four Illinois-based families, with primary terms reached by early 2020.

While the terms of the settlement are confidential, remarks made in court indicate that each of Girardi’s clients was to be paid $2 million, however only received around 75 percent of the money owed to them.

A fifth client also may not have been paid, the judge noted, adding that he planned to refer the matter to the US attorney’s office.

Lion Air Flight 610, a Boeing 737 Max, crashed into the ocean off Indonesia in October 2018, killing all 189 passengers on board

Lion Air Flight 610, a Boeing 737 Max, crashed into the ocean off Indonesia in October 2018, killing all 189 passengers on board

Families and colleagues of victims of Lion Air flight JT 610 cry on deck of Indonesian Navy ship KRI Banjarmasin during visit and pray at the site of the crash on November 6, 2018

Families and colleagues of victims of Lion Air flight JT 610 cry on deck of Indonesian Navy ship KRI Banjarmasin during visit and pray at the site of the crash on November 6, 2018

An earlier lawsuit claims that last month's announcement Jayne had filed for divorce is an act to protect their money from debt collectors

An earlier lawsuit claims that last month’s announcement Jayne had filed for divorce is an act to protect their money from debt collectors

The pair were married in 1999. The couple seen here with Jayne's son Tommy Zizzo

The pair were married in 1999. The couple seen here with Jayne’s son Tommy Zizzo

Earlier this month, Edelson’s firm filed a separate lawsuit against Girardi, accusing him and Jayne of embezzling the Lion Air settlement funds to keep up their ‘public image of obscene wealth’, despite being over the ‘verge of financial collapse’.

It further claims that last month’s announcement Jayne had filed for divorce against Girardi is an act to protect their money from debt collectors.

‘At the heart of this deception is Defendant Girardi and his need to fund outrageous lifestyles for himself and his soon-to-be ex-wife, Erika Jayne,’ the complaint, obtained by DailyMail.com, reads.

It continues: ‘Tom and Erika have reached celebrity status in the glitz-and-glam world of Hollywood and Beverly Hills…To keep up their celebrity status, Tom and Erika must project a public image of obscene wealth at all times, and at whatever the cost.

‘While Erika publicly filed for divorce this month, on information and belief, that “divorce” is simply a sham attempt to fraudulently protect Tom’s and Erika’s money from those that seek to collect on debts owed by Tom and his law firm GK.’

In his suit, Edelson stated that Girardi and his firm are ‘’are on the verge of financial collapse and locked in a downward spiral of mounting debts and dwindling funds’, and allegedly owe tens of millions of dollars to clients, co-counsel, and others.

The suit claims that it’s because of his purported financial turmoil that Girardi allegedly resorted to embezzling money intended for his clients.

Earlier this month, Edelson’s firm filed a separate lawsuit against Girardi, accusing him and Jayne of embezzling the Lion Air settlement funds because he’s ‘one the verge of financial collapse’ and needed to keep up their ‘public image of obscene wealth.’

Earlier this month, Edelson’s firm filed a separate lawsuit against Girardi, accusing him and Jayne of embezzling the Lion Air settlement funds because he’s ‘one the verge of financial collapse’ and needed to keep up their ‘public image of obscene wealth’

Legal woes: The duo (pictured 2017) are currently being sued for allegedly embezzling millions of dollars meant for families who lost loved ones in the 2018 Lion Air plane crash

Legal woes: The duo (pictured 2017) are currently being sued for allegedly embezzling millions of dollars meant for families who lost loved ones in the 2018 Lion Air plane crash 

The complaint says the couple flaunts their wealth through giving each other luxury gifts such as a $5,000 toilet. Erika also drives a $250,000 Lamborghini

The complaint says the couple flaunts their wealth through giving each other luxury gifts such as a $5,000 toilet. Erika also drives a $250,000 Lamborghini

The lawsuit also highlights a lyric from Erika's 2017 hip-hop song 'Exxpen$ive' which features the phrase, 'it's expensive to be me'. Erika pictured tossing dollar bills in the music video for the song

The lawsuit also highlights a lyric from Erika’s 2017 hip-hop song ‘Exxpen$ive’ which features the phrase, ‘it’s expensive to be me’. Erika pictured tossing dollar bills in the music video for the song

Jayne’s extravagant lifestyle is well documented on the reality show Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

The lawsuit cited examples of her excessive spending, mentioning how she boasted in 2018 that she spends $40,000 a month her glamorous make-up.

The suit also highlights a lyric from her 2017 hip-hop song ‘Exxpen$ive’ which features the phrase, ‘it’s expensive to be me.’

The complaint says the couple flaunts their wealth through giving each other luxury gifts such as a $5,000 toilet. Erika also drives a $250,000 Lamborghini.

Edelson PC asked the court to complete a ‘full and complete accounting of all funds transferred from Boeing that were intended for any GK client’, leading to Monday’s contempt hearing.

Erika and Tom were married in 1999, after meeting while Erika was serving cocktails at Chasen’s in West Hollywood, where Tom was a frequent patron. She has a son Tommy Zizzo, who was born in 1994.

Hours after Edelson’s initial suit was filed on December 2, Jayne posted an image of herself to Twitter, writing: ‘High drama’.

Girardi was later sued again on December 9, this time by Wells Fargo Vendor Financial Services, claiming he failed to make payments on leased office equipment and owes the bank $882,715.52.

The lawsuit, which was filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court, claimed Girardi and his firm ‘failed to make their monthly payments, which included rental charges, maintenance, taxes, overages, late fees and a purchase option.’