Top FBI official in L.A. silent about his and mom’s connection to Tom Girardi

A smiling man.
Thomas Girardi in 2014.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The FBI’s Los Angeles field office, which is leading the high-profile investigation into rampant corruption at Tom Girardi’s now-defunct law firm, is refusing to answer questions about the relationship among the agency’s top local official, his mother and the disgraced legal legend.

Donald Alway, the assistant director in charge of the field office, is the son of Girardi’s former girlfriend and secretary. His mother, Michelle Alway, received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Girardi and his law firm during the mid-1990s, according to court papers.

By that period, Girardi had already started misappropriating clients’ settlement money for his own purposes, a practice that continued into recent years, according to court filings from a bankruptcy trustee.

Times reporting has played a starring role in ‘The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ this season. Here’s our guide to Erika Jayne and Tom Girardi.

Feb. 1, 2023

Beyond the cash transfers, Girardi paid more than $131,000 toward the mortgage of Michelle Alway’s home in Carmel-by-the-Sea between 1993 and 1998, according to court filings in Girardi’s divorce from his second wife. Monterey County real estate records show that Donald Alway currently co-owns the residence with his mother, and the property is valued at more than $1.2 million.


Alway, a former L.A. county sheriff’s deputy who became head of the local FBI office this summer, refused an interview request through an FBI spokeswoman, Laura Eimiller.

In a statement, Eimiller said Alway “has not been involved in this investigation, which largely predates his time in the Los Angeles Division.”

The timing and duration of the relationship between Michelle Alway and Girardi is unclear, and she could not be reached for comment. She was identified as Girardi’s former girlfriend in a forensic accountant’s report in Girardi’s second divorce. The attorney has been married three times, most recently to “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Erika Girardi.

Tom Girardi gave more than $2 million to Democratic politicians during a period in which he was stealing money from clients.

Sept. 22, 2022

Eimiller said the investigation into Girardi’s firm is led by the U.S. attorney’s office in L.A. and FBI Special Agent in Charge Brian Gilhooly. Gilhooly reports to Alway. Asked whether Alway has recused himself, the FBI spokeswoman did not respond.

Federal law enforcement, including the FBI, have been conducting an investigation into the Girardi Keese law firm for years. The first public prosecution in the case was revealed last week, when federal authorities filed a wire fraud charge against former Girardi Keese Chief Financial Officer Chris Kamon.

In court, prosecutors described Kamon’s alleged embezzlement of $10 million at the firm as a “side fraud” on a $100-million fraud perpetrated by multiple people connected with the law firm.

Times staff writer Harriet Ryan contributed to this report.