Case # 10ZF0084
Date: March 20, 2015
ATTORNEY SENTENCED TO NINE MONTHS IN JAIL FOR CONSPIRING TO EXTORT $350,000 FROM CLIENT’S FORMER EMPLOYER BY THREATENING TO PUBLICLY DEFAME HER WITH FALSE CLAIMS AND LIES
*Co-defendant in this case pleaded guilty before trial
SANTA ANA – An attorney was sentenced today to nine months in jail for conspiring to extort $350,000 from his client’s former employer by threatening to publicly defame her with false claims and lies. James Toledano, 70, Newport Beach, was found guilty by a jury Nov. 26, 2014, of one felony count of conspiracy to commit a crime and one felony count of attempted extortion by threat. Toledano was also sentenced to three years formal probation, search and seizure, must submit a DNA sample, pay a $1,000 restitution fine, and was ordered to have no contact with the victim or the co-defendant in this case. On Feb. 4, 2015, Toledano’s license to practice law in the state of California was suspended. The California State Bar Association will determine whether the defendant’s license will continue to be suspended or if he will be disbarred at a later date.
Co-defendant, and Toledano’s client Michael Earl Roberts, 40, pleaded guilty on Oct. 27, 2014, to one felony count of conspiracy to commit a crime, one felony count of attempted extortion by threat, two misdemeanor counts of harassing phone calls, and two misdemeanor counts of annoying phone calls. He was sentenced to six months in jail, three years of formal probation, and ordered to have no contact with the victim.
Circumstances of the Case
Between 1995 and 2005, Roberts worked as a personal trainer for the victim and her husband. In 2005, his employment was terminated. Between August 2006, and June 2008, Roberts made dozens of harassing and threatening phone calls to the victim and her friends indicating that he planned to make her life difficult and sue her. He left increasingly threatening and harassing messages telling the victim, “You better hang onto something, because it’s going to get bumpy,” and that he was going to “destroy” her.
In May 2008, Toledano, acting on behalf of and as attorney to Roberts, met with the victim’s attorney and indicated that Roberts wanted $350,000 in exchange for not releasing information he claimed would be damaging to the victim. Roberts threatened to publicly humiliate the victim with a negative media campaign by having false and damaging stories printed in the Orange County Register, the Los Angeles Times, Orange Coast Magazine, and on ABC television broadcasts.
The victim reported the crimes to the Newport Beach Police Department, who investigated this case.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Rebecca Olivieri, formerly of the Special Prosecutions Unit and now Assistant Head of Court of the Felony Panel, prosecuted this case.