Personal-injury lawyer who stole millions from settlements gets 12 years in prison


A former personal-injury lawyer who stole millions of dollars from clients’ settlements before fleeing to Costa Rica was sentenced Thursday in federal court in Los Angeles to 12 years in prison.

Philip James Layfield, 48, aka Philip Samuel Pesin, was found guilty in August on 23 charges, including 19 counts of felony wire fraud, one count of mail fraud, one count of tax evasion and other charges, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles. After the verdict, he was remanded to federal custody.

Layfield formerly owned and operated several law firms in California, including offices in Irvine, Los Angeles and El Segundo, along with Park City, Utah, and Scottsdale, Ariz.

Convicted L.A. swindler who was trusted by a judge to report to prison disappears, becoming the third fugitive in huge L.A. pandemic-relief fraud case


In 2016, Layfield represented a client who was left seriously injured after being hit by a car in Orange County, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. Layfield negotiated a $3.9-million settlement for his client but stole approximately $2 million for his own personal use and to pay other clients whose settlement funds he had misappropriated, according to charging documents.

The client in the Orange County case received only $25,000, according to federal prosecutors.

In 2016, Layfield failed to file a federal income tax return, despite receiving $3 million, which included settlement money he had embezzled from clients, authorities said. He was also responsible for his law firm not paying roughly $121,000 in payroll taxes for the second quarter of 2017.

The wide-ranging investigation will examine whether the State Bar helped the now-disgraced legal legend Tom Girardi escape discipline.

After he stole millions from his clients’ settlement funds, Layfield moved to Coto de Caza in Costa Rica. Before he fled, he applied for a $700,000 loan from a business lender with misleading information, according to federal prosecutors who detailed Layfield’s crimes during a 13-day trial last year.

Layfield used the bulk of the money from the loan for personal expenses, including purchasing a horse and then shipping other horses to Costa Rica, authorities said. He was arrested in New Jersey in 2018 after he returned to the United States and was disbarred in California later that year.