A former lawyer from Redondo Beach agreed Wednesday to plead guilty to a fraud charge, admitting he lied to clients about winning cases and deceiving them with bogus documents, some with the forged signatures of judges.
Matthew Charles Elstein, 51, will plead to one count of wire fraud in Los Angeles federal court on a date to be determined, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Elstein was a licensed California attorney from December 1994 until the State Bar of California ordered him inactive in March 2019. According to his plea agreement, from June 2015 to July 2018, Elstein engaged in a scheme to defraud his clients by claiming he obtained favorable legal resolutions for them, when in fact the favorable resolutions had never been obtained.
In many cases, Elstein never initiated any legal action, prosecutors said. Elstein also admitted to misappropriating funds by informing victims their fees were going into his client trust account, when in fact he directed them to deposit money into his personal bank account, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Elstein admitted to fabricating depositions in a federal case in Washington state in September 2015. Because the depositions were fake, no one appeared for them. Nonetheless, Elstein had a court stenographer present and made a formal record of the nonappearances, according to prosecutors.
Elstein also billed his client for attending the fake depositions and his travel expenses to Seattle. Elstein also falsely told the victim that he had obtained a $4.25 million judgment in the victim’s favor and provided the victim with a fake court order containing the forged signature of a judge, prosecutors said.
When the victim traveled to Seattle to collect the judgment, he was informed by the court that no such case existed. In total, Elstein’s conduct resulted in losses of at least $358,855 to his victims, according to prosecutors.
Once he enters his guilty plea, Elstein will face up to 20 years in federal prison.
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