Monday, July 8, 2002
Former Beverly Hills Attorney Angela Wallace Ordered To Stand Trial for Grand Theft by Embezzlement
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
A former Beverly Hills lawyer and another defendant were ordered Friday to stand trial on charges that they stole a $380,000 life insurance payment from two Inglewood brothers who were gunned down while awaiting settlement of their mother’s estate.
In addition to the grand theft by embezzlement charge, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Frederick N. Wapner also ordered former attorney Angela Wallace, 41, and co-defendant Timothy Mack, 46, to stand trial on charges of perjury stemming from filing false applications for driver’s licenses, but ruled there was not enough evidence to support a charge of conspiracy against the pair.
Wapner denied requests by Wallace’s attorney, Milton C. Grimes, and Mack’s attorney, Anthony R. Garcia, to have the perjury counts dropped because the statute of limitations has run. Wapner agreed with Deputy District Attorney Ron Goudy that law enforcement officials had no way of knowing perjury had occurred until an investigation into the embezzlement charges began, extending the limitations period.
Wallace is also charged with three counts of forgery for allegedly using a false power of attorney to open a bank account under one brother’s names.
Mack and Wallace are scheduled to be arraigned July 19.
Prosecutors accuse Wallace of duping brothers Jontrae Byrdsong, 18, and Howard Byrdsong, 20, out of the life insurance settlement they were to receive from the estate of their mother, Los Angeles Police Officer Shiree Arrant, after she died in 2000, and of lying to them about ever receiving it.
Wallace was serving a two-year suspension and barred from practicing law in California when she represented herself as an attorney to the Byrdsong brothers and agreed to act as their trustee, prosecutors say.
In August 2000, Wallace sent a letter to Fortis Insurance Co., which was handling Arrant’s policy, instructing the insurer to send a lump sum payment to Howard Byrdsong in care of Wallace.
Several days later, prosecutors allege, Wallace opened a bank account at City National Bank under the name “All American Law Firm FBO Howard Byrdsong” with a forged power of attorney. Between August 2000 and March 2001 Wallace used the account to write numerous unauthorized checks to herself, her law firm, and others, according to the amended complaint.
In the spring of 2001, Wallace allegedly told a family friend of the Byrdsongs that she had not received the settlement check. A man identifying himself as a negotiator for Wallace then visited the home of Regina Martin and Howard Byrdsong and offered Byrdsong a settlement of $125,000 right then and $143,631.41 after he rescinded an affidavit of forgery he had filed with City National Bank, according to the amended complaint. Wallace allegedly later visited the Byrdsongs and told them she had invested $125,000 because she had invested all of the money.
Mack, who identified himself as a representative of the bank, also visited Howard Byrdsong and presented him with a document entitled “Out-of-Court Settlement,” which proposed a settlement between the elder brother and the bank for $125,000 and released Wallace of all liability regarding the remaining money, according to the amended complaint.
Just months after the Byrdsongs contacted the District Attorney’s Office last spring with their suspicions of Wallace and Mack, the brothers were shot to death at the home where they had been staying after a man dressed as a postal worker knocked on the door, pistol-whipped Martin and killed the men.
Inglewood police are currently investigating the murders and investigators are focusing on the contact the brothers had with Wallace and Mack, Lt. Alex Perez said.
“She is involved in the investigation, but we don’t have enough to charge her and our investigation is continuing,” Perez said.
“It’s not like someone came out of left field,” Perez said. “If there is anyone else, they will probably be associated with them.”
Wallace, a graduate of USC law school, was admitted to the State Bar in 1988. She received a two-year suspension in September 1999 after stipulating to seven counts in six consolidated cases, according to the California Bar Journal, an official State Bar publication.
Wallace stipulated that she “commingled funds, allowed the misappropriation of client funds and committed acts of moral turpitude” in one case and she failed to communicate with a client after receiving settlement funds in another. Wallace also stipulated that she “failed to perform legal services competently or refund her client’s advanced fees.”
She resigned from the State Bar last May with charges pending. Charges brought by the State Bar are not made public until they are actually filed and Wallace resigned before anything was filed against her, Bar spokeswoman Kathleen Beitiks said.
Grimes said the embezzlement case should be dealt with in civil, not criminal, court, but added that there may be hope in the criminal system.
“We may come out of this yet,” Grimes said.
Wapner reduced Mack’s bail from $750,000 to $400,000, but denied a request from Garcia to release Mack or to reduce his bail to a more manageable $50,000. Mack has been in custody since his arrest in February.
Garcia said he was unsure whether his client will be able to post bail.
“We think it would be difficult for anyone,” Garcia said.
Wallace remains free on $150,000 bond.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company