Thursday, July 7, 2011
D.A.’s Office Says It Is Investigating Richardo A. Torres II
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The District Attorney’s Office is investigating allegations that former mid-Wilshire attorney Ricardo A. Torres II misappropriated client funds and committed other ethical violations, a senior prosecutor said yesterday.
In response to a MetNews inquiry, Janice L. Maurizi, head of the Bureau of Fraud and Corruption Prosecution, said the Justice System Integrity Division had resumed its probe of Torres, who agreed last month to accept disbarment.
“As is our practice,” Maruizi said, “this investigation was suspended pending the results of the State Bar investigation.” Now that the State Bar has acted, she said, prosecutors have “requested the State Bar file so that our criminal investigation can be concluded and a filing decision made.”
The State Bar Court accepted a stipulation in which Torres, once a rising figure on the local political scene, admitted taking almost $90,000 from clients who were seriously injured by a drunk driver in 2005.
Torres, 46, tried to resign his license with charges pending last year, but the Supreme Court rejected the resignation and instructed the State Bar to proceed with disciplinary proceedings expeditiously. The matter was referred to the State Bar’s recently formed task force on major misappropriations of client funds.
According to the disbarment stipulation, Torres and three other law firms represented Lawrence and Rachel Prijoles, who were seriously injured in a 2005 head-on collision with a driver who was under the influence of alcohol. The couple eventually recovered general and punitive damages of $648,962.67.
Torres received checks totaling that amount and distributed $559,746.50 to the couple, the other attorneys and experts used at trial. However, he never paid the couple’s doctors and admitted he misappropriated $89,216.47, the remainder of the damages Torres received.
He also never accounted for any settlement funds, and apparently left the country when the misappropriation was about to come to public attention, although he later returned and participated in guardianship proceedings regarding two of his children, who had been living with his parents, Ricardo and Mary Torres.
The elder Torres is a former presiding judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court.
The younger Torres was the founding president of the Los Angeles Legal Corps, which provided low-cost representation to persons who were making too little money to qualify for free legal services but could not afford to hire lawyers at prevailing rates. He also ran for the state Assembly and the Los Angeles City Charter Commission in separate 1997 elections.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company