The State Bar of California announced, via its interactive discipline statistics webpage, the disbarment of 22 California attorneys in the third quarter of 2022, bringing its calendar year disbarment total through September 2022 to 62 attorneys.
Along with the 22 disbarred attorneys, 36 others were suspended and/or put on probation by the State Bar Court in the third quarter following Notices of Disciplinary Charges or stipulations to discipline filed by the Office of Chief Trial Counsel (OCTC). In the same period, OCTC also issued 50 cease and desist letters to nonattorneys and unlicensed or suspended attorneys who engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, warning them to stop giving legal advice that they had no license or authority to provide.
The latest attorney disbarments include felony convictions for conduct ranging from multimillion-dollar frauds to the kickback sale of temporary green cards to foreign investors. Other disbarments include attorneys charged with misappropriating client trust funds.
Joseph Miranda Hoats (SBN 141599) of Covina was summarily disbarred after his 2021 felony conviction for perjury. Hoats was part of a scheme to induce victims to transmit money in exchange for large orders of gas and oil products that he and other defendants knew they could not fulfill. Prosecutors argued that Hoats lied about creating a fictitious company, opening a fictitious bank account, and submitting fraudulent bank documents that he and his partners used to defraud a New York-based victim out of nearly $1.5 million.
Hoats was sentenced by the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, to six months of home confinement as part of a two-year term of supervised release.
Derek James Jones (SBN 219803) of San Marino, was disbarred for intentionally misappropriating client funds, failing to maintain funds in a client trust account, and issuing nonsufficient funds checks in his role as a negotiator for subtenant leases for the real estate company, Legado Companies.
Jones was hired by Legado to negotiate a commercial property lease with the restaurant Killer Shrimp Marina Del Rey. Killer Shrimp provided Jones with $175,000 to cover its security deposit, furniture, and other items, as well as a liquor license. Rather than, as required, deposit the funds into a client trust account, Jones deposited the money into his own business checking account and then made withdrawals from this account for his personal use.
Victoria Chan (SBN 255765) of San Gabriel was summarily disbarred after she pleaded guilty to three felony counts in federal court for her role in a $50 million scheme to defraud the federal EB-5 Visa program. That program provides legal residency (green cards) to foreign nationals who invest $500,000 or more in a U.S. business, while also creating 10 or more new American jobs. Chan admitted to federal authorities that she submitted approximately 130 fraudulent petitions for EB-5 visas and that she and her co-conspirators either stole or refunded to foreign nationals much of the tens of millions of dollars collected from them by California Investment Immigration Fund, LLC, a business she operated with her father.
Chan pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court, Central District of California, to conspiracy to commit visa fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and international money laundering. She was sentenced to one day in prison with three years of supervised release and was required to forfeit eight personal properties worth $25 million.
Also disbarred in the third quarter was disgraced attorney Thomas V. Girardi (SBN 36603). The State Bar recently announced the release of information pertaining to closed investigations related to Girardi.
The State Bar also released information on steps it has taken, and will take in the future to ensure another Girardi-like scenario never takes place again, including creating the Client Trust Account Protection Program, which was approved by the California Supreme Court on October 24, 2022. This program will enable the State Bar—for the first time—to require licensed attorneys to report information about all of their client trust accounts annually. This type of reporting will provide the State Bar with new tools to enhance accountability and oversight of client trust accounts and deter misconduct.
In addition, the State Bar has:
- Appointed George S. Cardona, a former federal prosecutor, as Chief Trial Counsel. His was the first such confirmation by the Legislature in 10 years. The new leadership team was further bolstered by the hiring of Ellin Davtyan as the State Bar’s new General Counsel;
- Developed an automated process for identifying patterns of complaints at intake. The State Bar previously directed staff to look for patterns of prior complaints when reviewing new complaints. However, that process involved a manual review of complaint histories and lacked an overarching framework for how those histories should be taken into account. The State Bar has now developed an automated process that uses 25 general categories of complaint allegations to make it easier for staff to identify patterns of complaints;
- Implemented a new policy so that cases resulting from small bank overdrafts are not closed without investigation if the attorney has a pending or prior (within the past two years) overdraft complaint or a complaint related to a client trust account;
- Implemented policies and procedures requiring conflict checks by investigators and attorneys as cases are assigned, and closed;
- Integrated a conflicts-of-interest database with the State Bar’s case-management system, to improve monitoring of conflicts;
- Revised the policy related to the current semiannual random audits of closed cases, to ensure the independence and objectivity of the external auditor, and establish formal oversight by the Board to ensure that the external auditor’s findings are addressed; and
- Changed polices to provide clearer guidance and limits on the use of nonpublic measures to close cases.
If you would like further information regarding any of these, or other discipline cases, please contact us.
You can search for State Bar Court records and documents related to attorney discipline matters using the court’s Case Search feature. Input either the case number (you must add SBC to recent case numbers) or the attorney’s name (last, first middle).
See more at the State Bar’s discipline notices filterable by county; cease and desist notices filterable by county are also available.