Newport Beach man pleads not guilty to theft and money laundering charges

A Newport Beach man pleaded not guilty Wednesday to felony charges stemming from allegations that he posed as an attorney and defrauded clients through debt consolidation and mortgage modification schemes.

James Frank Barker, 57, is facing eight counts of money laundering and three counts of grand theft, with possible sentencing enhancements on allegations of aggravated white-collar crime over $100,000, property damage/loss over $65,000 and property loss over $200,000, according to Orange County Superior Court records.

If convicted, Barker could face a maximum of 11 years and eight months in state prison.

The Orange County district attorney’s office alleges that between December 2013 and July 2015, Barker posed as a lawyer under several aliases and law firm names to solicit clients by promising to consolidate debt or reduce mortgage payments through loan modifications.

During that time, prosecutors say, Barker collected a total of $45,600 from three pairs of clients and didn’t notify his clients’ debtors that he was representing them.

Authorities allege he refused to give his clients refunds after failing to perform any work in exchange for the money.

The district attorney’s office launched an investigation in December 2015 after receiving a tip from an attorney who represented two of Barker’s clients.

Newport Beach police arrested Barker on Monday and he was booked into Orange County Jail without bail, according to jail records.

He is expected to appear in court May 25 for a pretrial hearing.

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