LOS ANGELES (CN) — The former chief financial officer of the defunct Girardi & Keese law firm lost his bid to be released from jail while fighting charges he stole $10 million from the firm in a "side fraud" scheme separate from the estimated $100 million disgraced attorney Thomas Girardi is accused to have siphoned off from his clients' trust funds.
U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer on Monday rejected the arguments by a lawyer for Christopher Kamon that his client wanted a "fresh start" and that there are perfectly innocent explanations why he liquidated his assets in the U.S., transferred millions of dollars to overseas bank accounts, and bought a $2.4 million home in the Bahamas.
"The government has proven that he's a flight risk," Fischer said at the hearing in LA federal court. "The transfer of funds is extremely suspicious in my view."
Kamon, 49, has been in jail since his arrest Nov. 5 at the airport in Baltimore when he returned for the Bahamas. Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney's Office in LA say that Kamon planned to leave the county, change his name and hide, citing an unidentified witness who they say was an unwitting co-schemer who believed the accountant had authority to use the law firm's funds for his private pursuits.
Prosecutors say Kamon, who worked at the Girardi Keese accounting department for almost two decades, used falsified invoices, fraudulent transfers and cash kickbacks from the firm's accounts to steal millions of dollars. They also claim he improperly used the firm's funds for his personal expenses, including home renovations, travel around the world on private planes and and tens of thousands a month for "female companionship."
It was highly doubtful that he was authorized to provide a $20,000 monthly allowance to an escort, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ali Moghaddas said at the hearing.
If convicted, the accountant could face 11 to 14 years in prison just for his "side fraud," according to the government. That doesn't take into account Kamon possible culpability in the broader fraud scheme perpetrated by Girardi and others, which involved an estimated $100 million stolen from client settlement funds, the government said.
In addition, prosecutors said, the $1 million secured bond Kamon proposes to post as bail is far from sufficient to secure his return to court because he still has millions of dollars in foreign bank accounts.
The judge agreed Kamon could easily reimburse his family members and friends who have agreed to put up equity in their homes as part of his bond should he decide to flee rather than risk a possible 15 years in prison.
Jack DiCani, one of Kamon's attorneys, told Fischer everybody knew where his client was going and that he travelled to the Bahamas and sought residency there under his own name. According to DiCani, he had repeatedly reached out to federal prosecutors in Chicago, where there's a criminal investigation into the purported fraud by Girardi, and there hadn't been any indication that Kamon was a target in that probe, which could have prompted him to flee.
"Mr. Kamon wanted a fresh start at life," DiCani told the judge. "They've taken objective facts and read into them a nefarious explanation — that he was trying to hide from law enforcement."
Kamon doesn't have a criminal record, is charged with only one nonviolent crime, and nothing in his past or present conduct suggests that he is a flight risk, DiCani previously said in his request for pretrial release.
The government, however, said Kamon has been trying to avoid being served with lawsuits in civil litigation stemming from his role at Girardi Keese and that even his own lawyers didn't know where he was. They also scoffed at the argument that there was nothing unusual about the fact that he had four mobile phones on him when he was arrested, saying that for some busy professionals it might be normal to have more than one phone, but not for someone who's unemployed.
Tom Girardi, a titan of the California plaintiffs bar, is believed to have used his client settlement funds as his own personal piggy bank for years. The 83-year-old lawyer is suffering from Alzheimer's and his firm went bankrupt two years ago as reports of his malfeasance came out.
Last year, a Chicago law firm accused singer and "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" star Erika Jayne of acting as a "frontwoman" for her then-husband, Girardi. The court filing called Girardi's now-shuttered law firm "the largest criminal racketeering enterprise in the history of plaintiffs’ law."
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