This week, it was announced that a personal injury attorney had been indicted on federal charges that he allegedly stole the majority of a multi-million dollar client settlement. The defendant was recently suspended by the California State Bar. 44-year-old Philip James Layfield was arrested in New Jersey last week. The defendant was arrested after returning to the United States from his new residence in Costa Rica.
Layfield also worked as a certified public accountant. He is charged with mail fraud and two counts of money laundering. Layfield owned and operated the Layfield & Barrett law firm, which has offices in Irvine, Los Angeles and other locations. Once faced with declining revenues, Layfield decided to close the firm and relocate to Costa Rica. Around this time, the indictment alleges that Layfield took steps to defraud his clients.
It is alleged that he filed unnecessary litigation to trigger increased attorney’s fees, stole settlement funds and settled injury cases without advising the firm’s clients. It is specifically alleged that Layfield entered into an agreement to represent an individual, who was hit by an automobile in Orange County in 2016. The victim suffered significant injuries. After negotiating a settlement of $3.9 million, Layfield allegedly misappropriated approximately $2 million.
The indictment claims that Layfield transferred some of the victim’s share to the firm’s payroll and some to his personal bank accounts. The indictment specifies that the car accident victim only received $25,000 of the settlement proceeds. At this point in time, the defendant remains innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. If convicted, Layfield could face a statutory maximum sentence of 60 years in federal prison.
Additional details have been made available here.