Claremont ex-attorney convicted of pocketing legal fees from clients
A Claremont attorney pleaded no contest today to stealing thousands of dollars from three clients over two years.
James Patrick Stoneman, 65, was sentenced under a plea agreement to three years of summary probation and was ordered to pay $11,000 in restitution to the victims, according to a release from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Under the terms of the agreement, Mr. Stoneman’s three felony charges were reduced to misdemeanors, the DA’s office said.
Mr. Stoneman was accused of stealing thousands of dollars from three separate clients, who came to him to settle issues with their employers. Mr. Stoneman would take the victims’ retainer fees and disappear without performing any legal services.
According to one victim named in the initial complaint, Deborah Toga, Mr. Stoneman took her $3,000 legal retainer fee and vanished, failing to do any services despite multiple calls and emails.
“Once the check was cashed, he disappeared,” Ms. Toga said in a previous interview with the COURIER.
Mr. Stoneman even went so far as to shut down his law office, according to the DA’s office.
Mr. Stoneman was also accused of taking $5,000 from a second client and $3,000 from a third client without performing any legal services, according to documents from the California State Bar.
He was arrested at his home on the 400 block of Potomac Way in August 2017.
Another State Bar document from September 2013 alleged earlier instances of Mr. Stoneman taking fees from clients without doing any legal services.
Mr. Stoneman was officially disbarred on March 31, 2017.