According to a State Bar review and bankruptcy filings, Tom Girardi, who used to be one of California’s top attorneys, misappropriated millions of dollars of client funds over the last decades. Girardi appears to have used the money on the opulent lifestyle he and his wife, Erika Jayne, displayed on “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” Luxurious parties and dinners the couple used to host for the legal community have also contributed.
Furthermore, Girardi allegedly transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars that were owed to cancer victims and other residents of a polluted Inland Empire community, to his mistress, Tricia Bigelow. Ms. Bigelow allegedly used the funds to purchase an ocean-front condominium in a prime area of Santa Monica in 2015. The lawyer transferred $300,000 to Bigelow, according to financial records filed in a state court lawsuit. The wire did not come from Girardi’s personal bank account, however. Instead, it was sent from a trust account with settlement money for the clients of his Wilshire Boulevard law firm, Girardi Keese, said Page Six.
This massive transfer appears to also have caught Erika Jayne by surprise after she expressed shock over the revelation during a deposition. She said that there was “no way” her husband had told her about it. She expressed her disbelief in an Instagram post saying “Wow. I knew about jewelry, shopping sprees, and plastic surgery but this really threw me for a loop.” Erika Jayne had previously posted and deleted photos of screenshots of sexual text messages between her husband and Tricia Bigelow. “This is Justice Tricia A. Bigelow. She was f–king my husband Tom Girardi and he was paying her Saks bill and paying for her plastic surgery,” she said.
In response to questions from The Times, Bigelow’s attorney, Alan Jackson, said that the $300,000 transfer “was NOT marked as coming from a [Girardi Keese] trust account.” He claimed that Bigelow had no reason to suspect he was drawing on client funds. Jackson also added that Girardi had “never shared anything with [Bigelow] regarding the source of any gifts.”
To compensate cheated clients and other Girardi creditors, Jackson returned the gifts, which Bigelow claimed were all the presents she ever received from the disgraced lawyer, over to a bankruptcy trustee. However, Jackson has declined to identify the gifts publicly or say how much they are worth.
According to bankruptcy claims from Girardi’s former clients and their relatives, many of the victims haven’t received their full settlements. Michelle Ganz, one of the claimants in the bankruptcy case whose mother, Sandi, died of lung cancer after she lived near one of the cement plants, said “We never got a dime,” adding that “We did everything they said we needed to, and they just never paid out.”
According to a court filing, Elissa Miller, the trustee for the bankruptcy of Girardi Keese, said that “a former friend” of Girardi turned over jewelry with a value of less than $15,000. This coincides with the timeframe in which Bigelow’s lawyer gave Miller the items.
UPDATE: The court ruled in favor of Erika Jane.
Photo: Louis Reed, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons