Costa Rica News – An Irvine attorney suspected of fleeing to Costa Rica after stealing about $2 million from a client’s auto injury settlement was named in a three-count federal indictment Friday, March 9, authorities said.
Philip James Layfield, 44 — who was arrested in New Jersey last week after returning to the United States — has been charged with mail fraud and two counts of money laundering, Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said.
Layfield will be arraigned after he is transported by the U.S. Marshals Service from New Jersey to Los Angeles.
He was suspended by the State Bar of California in January, Mrozek said, adding the defendant is also a certified public accountant.
Faced with declining revenues, Layfield in 2016 closed his firm, Layfield & Barrett that had offices in Irvine and Los Angeles, and relocated to Costa Rica, the indictment says.
The complaint also states around that time, Layfield began defrauding clients by filing unnecessary litigation to trigger increased attorney’s fees, settled personal injury cases without advising them, and stole their settlement funds.
In 2016, Layfield agreed to represent an individual who was struck by an automobile in Orange County and suffered significant injuries.
After negotiating a $3.9 million settlement for the victim, Layfield misappropriated about $2 million, the settlement says.
Layfield transferred a portion of the settlement to his personal bank accounts and law firm’s payroll leaving the victim with about $25,000, according to the indictment.
If convicted on all charges, Layfield faces up to 60 years in federal prison.
By SCOTT SCHWEBKE, Orange County Register