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NewsScandal-hit Spitzer faces wait for law firm role
Legal News | 2008/03/13 21:32

So what will Eliot Spitzer do next, assuming he escapes criminal prosecution and disciplinary sanction following his alleged involvement with a high-end prostitution ring? If he follows the example of his three living predecessors as governor, he will join a law firm.

George Pataki last year joined Chadbourne & Parke as a counsel in the environmental practice, and Mario Cuomo has long hung his hat at Willkie Farr & Gallagher. Hugh Carey survived the 1987 collapse of Finley Kumble Wagner Underberg Manley Myerson & Casey and is now a partner in the Manhattan office of Harris Beach.

But Spitzer's reasons for resigning office mark him as something of a different candidate.

"It matters how you leave," said the chairman of one large New York firm who asked to remain unnamed.

Former governors and other prominent political names generally have a cachet with clients that makes them attractive to firms, he said, but the scandal forcing Spitzer out of office may have exhausted the current governor's quotient of good will.

"He would need to rehabilitate himself first," agreed the managing partner of another large New York firm who also requested anonymity. It would probably be a year or more before any firm would even consider bringing the soon-to-be ex-governor aboard, the partner said. "He's radioactive in this environment," he added.



Verdict upheld for Valley law firm suing over fees
Court Watch | 2008/03/12 21:35

A federal Appeals Court has upheld a nearly $3.3 million verdict obtained by a Valley law firm against another firm from Texas for unpaid legal fees.

In their unanimous ruling, the judges of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments by the attorney for John M. O'Quinn & Associates that the legal fees being charged by Brown & Bain were not reasonable. Neil McCabe said that put the Phoenix law firm in violation of ethical rules adopted by the Arizona Supreme Court.

But appellate Judge John Noonan, writing for the panel, said the O'Quinn firm had in fact agreed to pay Brown & Bain a certain amount once the case settled.

Potentially more significant for attorneys, the appellate judges said Ethical Rule 1.5, which bars fees that are "unreasonable," applies only to the dealings that lawyers have with their clients. It does not regulate what one law firm charges another.

The case involves a lawsuit filed by about 900 property owners in the Phoenix area who filed suit against Motorola contending that toxic chemicals from its plant caused environmental damage. The deal the property owners had was the O'Quinn law firm would get 40 percent of any recovery plus the cost of litigation.


Miami appraiser pleads guilty to fraud scheme
Court Line | 2008/03/11 16:58

A Miami real estate appraiser has pleaded guilty to wire fraud for her involvement in the Southwest Ranches-area fraud scheme in Broward County, the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida said.

Martine Yanisse Castrillon is one of 15 defendants charged with buying homes through straw buyers at an inflated price, and then getting cash back at the closings. So far, nine defendants have pleaded guilty to various federal charges in the indictment.

Castrillon admitted that she did fraudulent appraisals -- valuing the properties at the amount requested by another defendant, not the true market price -- and forged the name of the certified appraiser who was to review her work.

According to the indictment, co-defendants Lazara Villalba and Henry Quintero-Lopez would offer the owner's full asking price and then inflate the contract purchase price to allow their companies, New World International and D&H Investments of South Florida, to receive a finder's fee, assignment fee or additional funds to allegedly construct improvements to the properties. They would then recruit individuals, who, for a fee, acted as straw buyers of the properties. Villalba and a co-defendant would obtain fraudulent pay stubs, IRS documents, verification of employment and verification of deposit forms; documents would be submitted to cooperating mortgage brokers and the loans were approved to purchase the properties.

Castrillon faces a maximum of 20 years in prison on each of the wire fraud counts and a fine of up to $250,000 on each count. Sentencing is scheduled for May 22.



Man in Iced Body Probe Pleads Not Guilty
Legal PR | 2008/03/11 11:00

A man arrested after police found a woman's body packed in dry ice in his hotel room pleaded not guilty Monday to two drug-related charges.

Stephen David Royds, 46, is charged with one count each of the sale or transport of a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell. A prosecutor said the substance was cocaine.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Derek G. Johnson set Royds' bail at $1 million.

Royds was arrested Thursday after police found the body of Monique Trepp packed in dry ice in a large Rubbermaid container in his hotel room. Police had obtained a warrant to search Royds' room for drugs.

An autopsy concluded that Trepp's death was not a homicide and Royds has not been charged with killing her. Toxicology reports were pending, but Dennis Conway, an Orange County assistant district attorney, said it appeared the 33-year-old died of an overdose.

Royds' court-appointed public defender, Richard Carmona, did not make himself available to reporters after the brief hearing and didn't immediately return a call for comment.

In addition to finding Trepp's body, investigators found drug paraphernalia, drugs and Christmas presents in Royds' room, Conway said.

Police and prosecutors have released few other details about the case, including how long Trepp's body was kept in the room. Conway said she had been dating Royds.

Royds has a prior drug conviction in Orange County in 2002, but did not appear for sentencing. Even if he were to post the $1 million bail on the new charges, he would be held with no bail on the older case, Conway said.



US cracks multimillion-dollar piracy ring
Legal PR | 2008/03/10 16:25

Two brothers in the US have been given lengthy jail terms for selling large amounts of pirated computer software. A federal court in Alexandria, Virginia sentenced Maurice Robberson, 48, to three years in prison and ordered him to pay $855,917 in restitution.

His brother Thomas Robberson, 55, was sentenced to 30 months in prison and ordered to pay $151,488 in restitution. Maurice Robberson pleaded guilty to conspiracy and felony copyright infringement, while his brother Thomas Robberson pleaded guilty to a single count of felony copyright infringement.

Thomas Robberson grossed more than $150,000 selling software with a retail value of nearly $1m by operating Bestvalueshoppe.com and TheDealDepot.net.

Maurice Robberson grossed more than $855,000 selling software with a retail value of nearly $5.6m through CDsalesUSA.com and AmericanSoftwareSales.com. Both brothers have agreed to forfeit all proceeds from the illegal businesses.

"People who steal the intellectual property of others for their personal financial gain, while defrauding consumers who think they are buying legitimate products, will be punished for their crimes, as today's sentences prove," said Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher.



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