Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Ex-Lawyer Torres Pays Restitution, Placed on Probation
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Disbarred Los Angeles attorney Ricardo A. Torres II has been placed on probation for stealing from clients, a district attorney spokesperson said yesterday.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George G. Lomeli sentenced Torres Friday to five years’ probation, the conditions of which include 300 hours of community service. Torres pled guilty to one count of embezzlement, in violation of Penal Code Sec. 506, in September.
A State Bar spokesperson told the MetNews that Torres last month paid over $97,000 in restitution to the State Bar for funds paid out by the Client Security Fund to Lawrence and Rachel Prijoles, plus interest. Torres, whose proffered resignation from the State Bar was rejected by the Supreme Court, agreed in 2011 to be disbarred and to pay restitution to the Prijoleses or the fund.
According to the disbarment stipulation, the Prijoleses were involved in a head-on collision with a drunk driver in San Diego County in 2005, winning a verdict for more than $500,000 in compensatory damages. The driver then agreed to pay $125,000 to settle the punitive damages part of the claim.
Torres received checks totaling nearly $650,000 from the driver and the driver’s insurer. Of that, nearly $560,000 was disbursed to Torres, his co-counsel, expert witnesses, and the clients.
None of the medical providers were paid, and Torres admitted misappropriating the remaining $89,000 in settlement funds.
The Client Security Fund has also paid $27,100 on four other applications filed against Torres, the State Bar spokesperson said.
Torres, a graduate of UC Berkeley and Loyola Law School, was admitted to the State Bar in 1993. He served a brief suspension in 2002 for writing checks for personal expenses against his client trust account, and was placed on involuntary inactive status in 2010 after defaulting in the disciplinary proceedings based on the Prijoles case.
He apparently stopped practicing law in December 2009, delivering his client files to another lawyer. Friends said at the time they believed he had left the country, although he later returned and appeared at a guardianship hearing for two of his children.
Torres was the founding president of the Los Angeles Legal Corps, which used private donations to provide low-cost legal representation to those whose incomes placed them just above the income limit to qualify for publicly funded services in civil matters. He lost election contests for the state Assembly and the Los Angeles Charter Commission, held at separate times in 1997.
His father, Ricardo A. Torres, is a retired Los Angeles Superior Court judge and a former presiding judge of the court. His uncle, William Torres, is a retired Superior Court commissioner.
Copyright 2013, Metropolitan News Company