Two Santa Rosa lawyers who ran what was once one of the largest firms on the North Coast have been indicted on federal charges of defrauding a client of more than $300,000, federal prosecutors said Friday.
Robert Anderson of Redwood Valley and Scott Steever of Rohnert Park each face 30 years in prison and fines of $500,000 if convicted of the eight criminal counts, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
They were partners at the firm once known as Lanahan and Reilly when they accepted the money in 2009 from a Marin County woman, prosecutors said.
It was supposed to be placed in trust, but instead was used on expenses that were not related to the client’s legal matters, prosecutors said.
The attorneys later lied to the client that more than $250,000 remained in the account, prosecutors said.
The indictment alleges they knowingly engaged in a conspiracy to defraud the woman, made false promises and concealed facts. It alleges they stole $318,000 from the client, who was identified in the indictment only by the initials B.M. A state bar investigation alleged they defrauded Marin County resident Bonnie Margolin of a similar amount.
Both Anderson and Steever were indicted Dec. 18 by a federal grand jury on wire fraud and money laundering charges, as well as conspiracy.
Anderson surrendered Friday and was arraigned in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. Steever made a first appearance Thursday.
Each was released on $100,000 bond and ordered to appear before Judge Edward Chen on Feb. 4.
Anderson declined to comment Friday. Steever could not be reached for comment.
Steever and Anderson were major shareholders at Lanahan, Steever & Anderson, the successor to a firm that once boasted 65 attorneys with regional offices in San Francisco, San Jose and Sacramento.
It once counted among its attorneys state Sen. Noreen Evans, Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Gary Nadler and former U.S. Rep. Doug Bosco. But the firm fell on hard times with the economic downturn of 2008 and closed four years later. It has since been hit with lawsuits claiming it owes millions of dollars to its creditors.
In 2013, state bar officials began investigating allegations that Steever and Anderson misappropriated money from two clients in 2009 and 2011.
In the Margolin case, Steever and Anderson received a check for $318,000 on behalf of the Marin County woman from Protective Life Insurance Co. and deposited it in a trust account, according to legal papers filed by the bar.
Margolin was entitled to at least $209,000, but she never got it, the papers said.
The later case involved $55,000 received on behalf of client Joanna Ramirez to pay a civil settlement. Steever and Anderson instead used the money for their own purposes, in willful violation of bar rules, the legal papers allege.
A state bar judge has since recommended disbarment for both lawyers. The actions are pending a review and approval of the California Supreme Court.
You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or email@example.com. On Twitter @ppayne.