|For Immediate Release
Case # 05ZF0118
October 12, 2007
Susan Kang Schroeder
Public Affairs Counsel
DEFENSE ATTORNEY PLEADS GUILTY TO CONSPIRING WITH BAIL BONDSMEN IN CAPPING AND REFERRAL SCHEME
SANTA ANA – Defense attorney Joseph Gerard Cavallo, 52, Irvine, pleaded guilty today to three felony counts for conspiring to engage in attorney capping and an illegal attorney referral scheme. Cavallo will be sentenced December 14, 2007 by the Honorable Carla Singer in Department C-36, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana. Cavallo’s co-defendants, Jorge Andres Castro, 31, Aliso Viejo, and Alejandro de Jesus Cruz, 35, Miami, both former bail bond agents, pleaded guilty to two felony counts on February 9, 2007 and were sentenced to four months in prison, restitution, and probation on October 5, 2007. All three defendants were indicted on the charges in October of 2005.
Between June 1, 2003 and August 1, 2005, Cavallo, Castro and Cruz conspired to commit the crime of attorney capping and attorney recommendation by a bail licensee. As co-owners of Xtreme Bail Bonds, Castro and Cruz acted as runners and cappers for Cavallo and solicited business for attorney Cavallo at Orange County jail facilities. Castro and Cruz also illegally recommended their bail bond clients to hire Cavallo as their attorney. They received money from Cavallo for performing these acts. In August of 2004, defendant Cavallo transferred $50,000 to defendant Castro and claimed it was an “interest free loan.”
Castro and Cruz kept a stack of defendant Cavallo’s business cards at the Xtreme Bail Bond’s office. Their employees had a sheet of “to dos,” and referring clients to Cavallo was part of their written instructions. The employees were told that they would get a bonus for referring bail clients to Cavallo. They were told to tell bail clients that they would get a discount from Cavallo because they were referred for legal services by Xtreme Bail Bond.
Meanwhile, Castro and Cruz recommended their bail clients hire Cavallo. They told their bail clients that defendant Cavallo was a friend of Xtreme Bail Bonds, and would give them a reduced attorney retainer fee. They would then make appointments for the bail client to visit Cavallo. In some cases, they would drive their cars to defendant Cavallo’s law office after directing bail clients to follow them. They would quote Cavallo’s retainer price to bail clients. They instructed bail clients to tell defendant Cavallo that they were referred to Cavallo by Xtreme Bail Bond.
California law prohibits bail bonds workers from recommending any attorney to any bail bond client, even if no money changes hands. The law also prohibits attorneys from paying non-lawyers for client referrals. There are laws regulating referrals in many different relationships to protect the consumer and the community from unscrupulous, secret dealings. The law is written to protect bail clients in the most vulnerable time of their lives, and does not allow bail agents to exercise any influence over the choice of counsel.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh is prosecuting this case.