Tom Girardi to face May trial in alleged $15-million fraud

A masked Tom Girardi in court on Feb. 6, 2023
A federal judge on Wednesday set a May 21 trial date for attorney Tom Girardi, shown in court in February 2023, on charges that he embezzled more than $15 million from five clients.
(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

Disgraced legal legend Tom Girardi will face a jury in Los Angeles this spring on charges he stole millions from clients, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Josephine Staton ordered a May 21 start for the trial over the objections of Girardi’s defense attorneys, who said they need a year to prepare.

“It does not appear to be an unusually complex trial,” said Staton, adding, “It is a lot more straightforward than many of the cases the court has.”


Though the prosecution has alleged a fraud scheme at the law firm Girardi Keese that stretched back decades and involved more than $100 million, the case headed for trial concerns only five clients and $15 million. Prosecutors said they could present their entire case to a jury in less than five days.

Girardi, 84, was not in court for the hearing. Last week, the judge found him competent to stand trial, rejecting his legal team’s assertion that he has profound dementia.

In a filing, his lawyers from the Federal Public Defender’s Office said that they still believe that he is unable to understand the charges or assist with his defense. But given the court’s ruling, they said, they are “attempting to treat Mr. Girardi as if he were competent.”

Prosecutors have said Girardi’s memory loss is mild, though gradually worsening, and in court Wednesday they cited his prognosis in arguing for an early trial date. Assistant U.S. Atty. Ali Moghaddas told the judge that delays could result in a new round of competency proceedings, pushing back the trial even more.

“The last thing the government wants is to put this off,” Moghaddas said, noting that the alleged victims had a right to a resolution.

Girardi will be tried alongside his law firm’s former chief financial officer, Chris Kamon, who has been accused of running a $10-million “side fraud” that entailed embezzling the law firm’s money to fund a lavish lifestyle.


Kamon’s attorney, Michael Severo, told the judge Wednesday that his client had no objection to a May 21 trial. Kamon has been held in federal custody since his arrest in November 2022.

Girardi, Kamon and Girardi’s son-in-law, David Lira, face a second indictment in Chicago on fraud charges related to $3 million that prosecutors allege was misappropriated from a settlement with Indonesian widows and orphans.