Friday, October 8, 2010
State Bar Charges Sacramento Attorney With Corruption
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A Sacramento lawyer named this week in a $60 million loan modification fraud suit by California’s attorney general has been charged by the State Bar with hiding $300,000 in collections from his partner and failing both to return money to his client and to deposit it in a client trust account.
James Sandison, general counsel for My US Legal Services, was charged with moral turpitude, dishonesty and corruption regarding acts committed from 2005 to 2010. Sandison, 55, had been partners with attorney Mark Hitman in a joint venture, Hitman and Sandison, in which they pursued theft of cable services matters first for AT&T and then for Comcast.
The State Bar said that Sandison, over a five-year period when his partner believed little money was coming in for Comcast, deposited $300,000 in a number of bank accounts, the majority of which were not client trust accounts, which are required for holding client funds.
Under terms of a contract with Sandison, Comcast was to be paid 60 percent of funds collected from individuals who pirated cable services. However, the State Bar said that Sandison over time—but not in a timely manner and not always from required client trust accounts—paid Comcast $142,900, $35,000 short of what the company was owed.
The group also said that Sandison owed Hitman $56,000, but only paid him $3,000. In a complaint, it alleged that Sandison used funds belonging to both Hitman and Comcast “for his own personal use and benefit.”
Sandison is also charged with the unauthorized practice of law for allowing a non-attorney to use his name and Client Trust Account.
The State Bar charges coincide with Attorney General Jerry Brown’s announcement Wednesday that Sandison, two companies and four other individuals are defendants in a $60 million loan modification scam lawsuit.
State Bar prosecutors joined the attorney general’s office and the Department of Real Estate in the investigation of My US Legal Services, US Loan Auditors, Sandison, attorneys Sharon Lapin of Greenbrae and Jonathan G. Stein of Elk Grove, and two other owners of the companies: Jeffrey Pulvino and Shane Barker.
The suit seeks civil penalties, restitution for victims and permanent injunctions to keep the companies and other defendants from fraudulently marketing forensic loan audits and legal services that had no value.
According to the attorney general, homeowners would pay thousands of dollars for the so-called forensic loan audits, which the companies used to convince them they had a strong legal case against lenders. Many homeowners were persuaded to stop making their loan payments and instead file lawsuits, and lost thousands of dollars and, in some cases, their homes.
Sandison joined the State Bar in 1990. The group’s website shows no prior record of public discipline.
Irvine Attorney Indicted
In other news, an Irvine attorney has been indicted on charges related to a mortgage fraud scheme in which 30 homes were allegedly purchased at inflated prices, with the excess proceeds going to the lawyer and other members of the conspiracy.
Gerald L. Wolfe, a State Bar member who was formerly also a registered real estate broker, was named in a one-count indictment returned Wednesday afternoon by a federal grand jury. The indictment charges Wolfe, 41, with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, a charge that carries a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.
The indictment alleges that Wolfe and others conspired to make fraudulent purchases of 30 properties in Orange and Riverside counties between the summer of 2005 and January 2006. The mortgages for the properties allegedly were fraudulent because the loan applications, among other things, misled lenders into believing that Wolfe or “straw buyers” would be living in those properties, contained fictitious personal information about straw buyers recruited by the conspiracy, and sought mortgages for inflated sale prices with agreements that sellers would return the inflated portion of the sale price to the conspiracy.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice said most of the 30 homes involved in the scheme went into foreclosure, and that investigators believe that the loss amount in relation to the scheme is more than $2 million.
The spokesperson said that Wolfe has agreed to surrender to authorities and make his initial court appearance Tuesday in U.S. District Court.
Two of Wolfe’s co-conspirators previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy and their sentencing remains pending.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Wolfe has been a member of the State Bar since 1995. The group’s website shows no prior record of public discipline.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company