New details in scandal and fraud at Tom Girardi’s law firm

LOS ANGELES, CA JUNE 26, 2014 ---

Tom Girardi at trial in 2014. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

A filing in federal court in Maryland on Wednesday offered new details about how Tom Girardi’s chief financial officer conducted what prosecutors have called a “side fraud” inside the massive corruption at the legal titan’s Los Angeles-based firm.

In an affidavit justifying the arrest of Christopher Kamon on a wire fraud charge, an FBI agent wrote that the former CFO Girardi Keese duped his boss out of millions of dollars by persuading Girardi’s secretary that the firm’s operating account was running low.

The secretary would then contact Girardi, who would in turn authorize Kamon to replenish the firm’s supposedly depleted coffers with money from a trust account holding clients’ money, according to the affidavit submitted by Special Agent Elias Guerrero. He wrote that Kamon spent millions on home renovations, exotic cars, and “female escorts.”

The alleged scheme involved at least $10 million, prosecutors have said, and occurred during a period in which an even greater fraud involved as much as $100 million in client funds was playing out at the law firm.

“Ironically, it appears that Kamon was misappropriating monies from GK at the same time as Girardi and other [Girardi Keese] principals, including Kamon, are suspected of separately misappropriating monies from client trust accounts,” Guerrero wrote.

Federal authorities have said in court that they are continuing to investigate those involved in the larger fraud and theft scheme.

One beneficiary of Kamon’s alleged embezzlement was 29-year-old Nicole Rokita, who is the CFO, now 49, met on the website, “which connects affluent older men with younger women,” according to the affidavit.

Beginning in 2017, Kamon transferred $360,000 from Girardi Keese to Rokita and separately spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of firm money to purchase her “jewelry, clothing and even a Tesla sports car.” A federal prosecutor last week said the purchases included a handbag valued at $120,000.

Rokita did not return messages seeking comment. An online resume and news articles identified her as the owner of a now-defunct “Keto diet restaurant” on Santa Monica Boulevard. The nature of her relationship with Kamon is not clear. In 2017, she posted a video that showed her accepting an elaborate marriage proposal from Kamon in Las Vegas that included a private jet, professional dancers and a party with relatives.

“The most amazing proposal by my incredible fiancé!!! Couldn’t be happier,” she wrote in a post since removed.

The affidavit suggested Rokita has been cooperating with the federal investigation. She told agents in recent interviews that Kamon listed her as a “legal marketer” for Girardi Keese and that she received health insurance through the law firm. She also recounted how she became gripped with fear after the collapse of the law firm two years ago.

“Kamon told Rokita that he thought he might be implicated in the GK scheme, and that he was going to leave the country … change his name and hide from authorities in connection with whatever federal case might be brought in,” Guerrero wrote.

Kamon bought a $2.4-million mansion in New Providence, Bahamas, in October and had told Rokita that the island nation would grant him residence after such a purchase. He was arrested earlier this month at a Baltimore airport after stepping off a flight from the Bahamas. He is being detained without bail as a potential flight risk pending his transfer to LA to face the wire fraud charge.

Kamon also allegedly worked with the law firm’s one-time handyman to siphon more than $5.6 million from the law firm. The handyman, Isidro Bravo, told federal agents during an interview last summer that Kamon enlisted him in the fraud and issued checks to him on the law firm’s account. After Bravo cashed the checks in his own account, he then returned much of the cash to Kamon, according to the filing.

Bravo, who did not respond to a message seeking comment, also kept some of the money as payment for the construction and repairs he had performed at Kamon’s personal properties.

One of those checks to Bravo appears to be the basis of the wire fraud charge against Kamon: a $4,885.67 payment in Sept. 16, 2020, a period when the law firm’s clients were clamoring for unpaid settlement money.

At least four other people involved in the construction business received about $4 million from Girardi Keese in a way similar to Bravo’s, according to the affidavit. One of those contractors was Paulo Arrazola, who also told federal investigators that he met Kamon while he was working at the law firm.

Arrazola said he performed a 13-month renovation at Kamon’s Encino mansion and rebuilt the plumbing system at Kamon’s Palos Verdes property — work that was all paid for with checks issued by Girardi Keese. Guerrero identified more than $1.2 million in payments to Arrazola from 2017 to 2020.

Guerrero is assigned to the white collar crime squad at the FBI field office in LA That office is currently led by Donald Alway, the son of Michelle Alway, who once dated Girardi and worked at his firm. Donald Alway and his mother own a home in Monterey County that was paid in part by Girardi, according to property and court records.

Donald has always declined to answer questions about his relationship to Girardi or whether he has recused himself from the case. An FBI spokeswoman said most of the investigative work was conducted before he took over as assistant director in charge of the LA office in August.

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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