A former Laguna Niguel attorney was sentenced Tuesday to four years in prison after pleading guilty to stealing $1.3 million from a client, in what is believed to be one of the largest thefts in Orange County involving one victim.
Richard Boehm, 42, already had been suspended from practicing law in April, 1991, when he offered to represent Tipton Chase, 33, of Vancouver, Wash., who was paralyzed from the neck down in a car accident, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Joseph D’Agostino.
Boehm negotiated a $3-million settlement with an insurance company, but told Chase that the settlement amount was $2 million, the prosecutor said. The insurance company placed $1.1 million in an annuity and forwarded $1.9 million to Boehm, who spent about $1.33 million on friends, a failing business, racehorses and other things, D’Agostino said.
Orange County Superior Court Judge John J. Ryan also ordered Boehm to repay $1.33 million after Boehm pleaded guilty to charges of grand theft, practicing law without a license, tax evasion and filing a false tax return.
Chase said Tuesday he is pleased that Boehm will go to prison, but has doubts he will ever be reimbursed. Chase said he now faces hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills.
“I’d like to see him get more time because I probably won’t get any of the money back,” Chase said. “It’s one thing to steal money from someone who can go out and make it again, but it’s another thing for someone in my position.”
Boehm was disbarred in 1992 after several unrelated complaints to the State Bar of California that Boehm secured retainer fees from clients but did nothing, officials said.
A state bar client restitution fund, supported by attorneys’ bar fees, paid $70,531 to clients who claimed they were defrauded by Boehm, said bar spokeswoman Susan Scott. Chase said his request for partial restitution is still pending.