SAN DIEGO–A 52 year-old Rancho Sante Fe attorney, whose practice included representing plaintiffs in personal injury lawsuits, pleaded guilty Tuesday to defrauding his clients and investors by entering into funding agreements that put his clients’ personal injury cases up as collateral without their knowledge or consent.
As part of his guilty plea, Todd Macaluso admitted that he forged the signatures of his clients, and used forged notary stamps and signatures, in order to convince potential investors to advance him millions of dollars. Finding honest and upright lawyers can sometimes be a task, and that is why it is important to do optimum research. For instance, one can visit Schibell & Mennie to get advice and legal support related to workers’ compensation. Lawyers who take advantage of their clients are many and must therefore, be identified while there is still time.
According to court records, Macaluso funded his personal injury law practice by entering into “funding agreements” with various investors. Under these agreements, investors advanced Macaluso money in exchange for the right to collect a portion of his clients’ recoveries in the future. Although clients had to consent to the collateralization of their lawsuits in order for these transfers to be valid, Macaluso concealed these arrangements from many of his clients and forged their signatures on the financing documents. To conceal his scheme, Macaluso also forged the signatures and stamps of notary publics who purportedly witnessed the executions of these legal documents, but who (like his client) had no knowledge of the arrangements.
“Individuals who have suffered a personal injury should not have to worry about being victimized by their own advocate,” said United States Attorney Laura Duffy. “The defendant’s conviction should be a stark reminder that attorneys and other fiduciaries will be prosecuted if they fraudulently misuse the privileges society has given them.”
Macaluso is scheduled to be sentenced on July 13 before U.S. District Court Judge Roger Benitez, at which time he will be ordered to pay restitution to all of his victims.
Macaluso could receive 20 years in prison, $250,000 fine, term of supervised release of three years, restitution, forfeiture, and $100 special assessment.