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Thursday, June 13, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Lawyer Skewered for Duping Victims’ Families

WASHINGTON (CN) - A Maryland attorney defrauded the families of some Puerto Rican victims of the 1972 Lod Airport Massacre in Tel Aviv, the 1st Circuit ruled.

On May 30, 1972, three members of the Japanese Red Army used submachine guns and grenades to fire into a crowd of airline passengers at Israel's Lod International Airport, now known as Ben Gurion International Airport.

Puerto Rican tourists waiting for their baggage to begin a pilgrimage were among the 24 fatalities and 78 injured.

Joshua Ambush, a Maryland lawyer, ultimately helped the American Center for Civil Justice (ACCJ) obtain a $1.8 billion fund from Libya for the victims and their families, but a dispute arose as to whether Ambush could claim a portion of the $12 million in legal fees or just his hourly wage.

ACCJ also accused Ambush of improperly inducing Puerto Rican wrongful-death claimants to revoke the powers of attorney they had granted to a representative of the nonprofit.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico issued a judgment against Ambush after a jury found that he had secured his clients' consent to retainer agreements by deceit, or dolo as it is known in Spanish.

Ambush appealed on the grounds of insufficient evidence to justify the jury's finding of dolo. He futher claimed that the court should have instructed the jury on the two types of dolo - serious and incidental.

And he said that challenged the finding that he deceived heirs who had not testified.

But the Boston-based 1st Circuit found that the jury reasonably came to its conclusion, and dismissed Ambush's other arguments.

The 23-page ruling describes how Ambush traveled to Puerto Rico after ACCJ instructed him to turn his case file over to another attorney that the nonprofit had hired. He met with the heirs of the victims, convincing them to give him their powers of attorney.

"According to the heirs' complaint, Ambush failed to disclose at their meeting that the center had paid him for his work, falsely told them that the center had done nothing on the estate's behalf, and misrepresented that the estates' compensation was contingent on the heirs' signature of the retainer agreements," Judge Jeffery Howard wrote for a three-member panel.

The jury awarded the heirs $100,000 in damages, and the court nullified the retainer agreements and ordered Ambush to pay $1 million in restitution.

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