Tom Girardi firm’s CFO embezzled $10 million, spent thousands on escort and real estate, prosecutors say

Tom Girardi in 2014
Tom Girardi in 2014.
(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

The chief financial officer of Tom Girardi’s law firm embezzled at least $10 million from firm bank accounts and used stolen funds to renovate his Los Angeles home, purchase a Caribbean mansion and shower an escort with a monthly stipend and gifts, including a $120,000 purse, a federal prosecutor said in court Thursday.

Government lawyers disclosed allegations against former Girardi Keese CFO Christopher Kamon at a detention hearing in U.S. District Court in Maryland. The 49-year-old was arrested on a wire fraud charge filed by L.A. prosecutors last week as he arrived at Baltimore-Washington International Airport on a flight from the Bahamas.

How Kamon figured into the corruption at Girardi’s firm has been a persistent mystery. Kamon worked at Girardi Keese for 20 years and although he was not an attorney, his role gave him intimate knowledge of the vast sums of money flowing through its accounts from multimillion-dollar legal settlements. Since the downfall of the firm, he has repeatedly invoked his right against self-incrimination when pressed to provide information in court proceedings.


The allegations laid out in court Thursday make clear what the government believes Kamon’s place was and only heighten questions and intrigue over the sweeping corruption in the firm run by Girardi, once one of California’s preeminent trial lawyers. A Times investigation found that the legal legend cultivated cozy ties with those in a position to stop unethical conduct, including regulators at the State Bar of California. Last week, in response to a lawsuit from The Times, the State Bar revealed it had received more than 205 complaints against Girardi over four decades; the agency did not take public action until his firm was forced out of business, the records show.

During the hearing Thursday, Assistant U.S. Atty. Colleen McGuinn indicated that Kamon was running his own “side fraud” for years apart from a “larger theft scheme” that unfolded at Girardi Keese. That separate criminal operation remains under active investigation, she said. It involves losses of about $100 million in client money and several possible “co-schemers,” including attorneys and Kamon, she said.

Exterior of the Edward A. Garmatz U.S. Courthouse in Baltimore.
Exterior of the Edward A. Garmatz U.S. Courthouse in Baltimore, where the former CFO for Girardi Keese, Chris Kamon, appeared this week on a wire fraud charge.
(Matt Hamilton/Los Angeles Times)

It was unclear whether those in the government crosshairs included Girardi. The 83-year-old, who owned the firm and, along with Kamon, controlled its bank accounts, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease last year and is in a court-ordered conservatorship.

With money stolen from Girardi Keese, the prosecutor said, Kamon lived well beyond his $350,000 salary. Pilfered funds helped finance a 13-month remodel on one of his five residences and allowed him to pay $20,000 per month to an unidentified woman whom he met on an escort website, McGuinn said. He took her on expensive vacations using stolen money and would lavish her with gifts, including the costly purse, the prosecutor said.

“This is not a Robin Hood-type of theft,” McGuinn said in the downtown Baltimore courtroom of Kamon’s alleged conduct. “This is purely greed and a lavish lifestyle.”


After hearing a lengthy description of the evidence against Kamon, U.S. Magistrate Judge Matthew J. Maddox ordered him to remain in federal custody and be transferred to California to face the wire fraud charge.

The judge noted that Kamon faced a very long sentence if convicted, demonstrated “a lack of trustworthiness” and had already taken steps to build a life in the Bahamas. “I believe that if you did know about the arrest warrant, your return would have been unlikely,” Maddox said.

The precise mechanism of Kamon’s alleged embezzlement scheme and the identities of those involved were unclear. Some filings in the case remain sealed. At least some of the embezzlement involved kickbacks from lawyers, the prosecutor suggested. Kamon issued checks for thousands of dollars to attorneys and others who then transferred the money to him in cash.

At one point, McGuinn, who was joined in court by a special agent from the Internal Revenue Service, said Kamon was “responsible for the cooking of the books” at the law firm. In the view of investigators, the alleged embezzlement totaled at least $10 million and federal agents have continued to try to hunt down his assets and any secret funds.

After Girardi Keese collapsed in 2020, Kamon sold or put up for sale properties he owned in Rancho Palos Verdes, Encino, Fresno County and Nevada. In court, McGuinn framed the unloading of properties as part of a larger effort to liquidate his assets, adding that some of the proceeds — some $2.2 million — were wired this year to a law firm in the Bahamas to purchase a residence there.

The woman whom Kamon met on an escort service was not named in court, but she has emerged as a key witness in the case. In an interview with federal agents, she said Kamon had floated the possibility of changing his name and fleeing the country. The prosecutor said Kamon had become increasingly “paranoid,” cycling through multiple phones, and had asked the woman if she would come live with him in the Caribbean.


The woman was contacted by the FBI in August, and she in turn tipped off Kamon. Once he learned other “co-schemers” had also been contacted by investigators, he booked a flight Sept. 21 for the Bahamas, where he remained until last Friday. Kamon recently closed on a Bahamas home valued at about $2.4 million, the prosecutor said.

McGuinn noted that foreigners in the Bahamas with property valued at more than $750,000 can secure permanent residency, which would complicate future efforts to detain him.

Citing the overseas residence and recent liquidation of assets, McGuinn argued that Kamon was a flight risk who could not be trusted out on bond. Further, McGuinn said that the sustained embezzlement scheme cast doubt on the origins of any money put up for bail.

Any promise “of monetary bond is paved with dirty money,” McGuinn said.

Defense attorney Jessie K. Liu rejected the idea that her client was a flight risk, and said that in recent months, Kamon had made multiple back-and-forth trips from the U.S. to the Bahamas. She noted that her client was arrested while returning to Maryland to visit family, and that regardless, the Bahamas still had an extradition treaty with the U.S.

“If Mr. Kamon was trying to flee,” Liu said, “he did a very bad job of it.”

Hamilton reported from Baltimore and Ryan from Los Angeles.