Wednesday, August 2, 2006
Encino Attorney Wolf Arrested for Stealing From Clients
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
An Encino attorney was arrested yesterday on charges of embezzling more than $300,000 from his clients, prosecutors said.
Mervyn H. Wolf, 67, was taken into custody by district attorney investigators on a felony warrant on six counts of grand theft and one count of bouncing a check, Deputy District Attorney Mark Ashen said in a statement. Ashen is assistant head deputy in the Justice System Integrity Division.
Wolf, a State Bar member since 1967, is accused of having taken settlement funds from his clients in six personal injury, workers’ compensation, and wrongful termination cases between June 2003 and June 2004. He allegedly deposited settlement checks into his clients’ trust accounts, and then embezzled the funds.
In one case, according to the prosecutors’ news release, Wolf took $25,000 from a client on permanent disability with breast cancer, who was subsequently evicted from her apartment and forced to live in an assisted living facility.
Wolf was apparently in jail yesterday afternoon, awaiting arraignment scheduled for tomorrow. Bail was set at $298,000.
A phone message left at his law firm was forwarded to Woodland Hills attorney Marc Appell, the son of Wolf’s former partner. Appell said he had not been in contact with Wolf about the case and that he was “blown away” by the allegations that the longtime practitioner had been stealing from his clients.
A source who did not wish to be named said late yesterday that Wolf had just begun a one-year suspension from the State Bar for mishandling several matters, but that could not be immediately confirmed with the State Bar. Records do show that Wolf was placed on three years’ probation in 1995 and temporarily lost his license to practice three times between 1998 and 2004.
The 1995 probation was for failure to supervise, failure to promptly pay medical lienholders and allowing his client trust account to fall below the required balance, in three different matters.
In 1998, records show, he was placed on probation again, this time with an actual suspension of 45 days. He stipulated that he did not submit certificates from a CPA certifying that he properly maintained his client trust account, which was a condition of his earlier probation; and that he did not promptly refund a $2,000 advance to a client after the client’s case settled, although the State Bar Court found that he had acted in good faith.
In 2002, he was placed on inactive status for a month for failure to comply with MCLE requirements, and two years ago he spent a month on suspension for nonpayment of bar dues.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company