Former lawyer agrees to plead guilty to defrauding clients via fake court documents containing forged judges’ signatures | USAO-CDCA
LOS ANGELES – A former California lawyer agreed to plead guilty to a fraud charge, admitting he lied to clients about winning business and cheated on them with false documents, some with forged judges’ signatures.
Matthew Charles Elstein, 51, of Redondo Beach, has agreed to plead guilty to one count of wire fraud in a plea agreement filed this afternoon in U.S. District Court. An indictment in this case is scheduled for October 28.
Elstein was a licensed California lawyer from December 1994 until the State Bar of the State of California ordered him to be inactive in March 2019. According to his plea agreement, from June 2015 to July 2018, Elstein was engaged in a scheme to defraud his customers by claiming that he had obtained a favorable legal right. resolutions for them, when in fact favorable resolutions had never been obtained. In many cases, Elstein never took legal action. Elstein also admitted to embezzling funds by informing victims that their fees were going to his client’s trust account, when in fact he ordered them to deposit money into his personal bank account.
For example, in June 2016, Elstein falsely informed a corporate client that she had won a default judgment of $ 52 million. He emailed the victim-client a fake court order that contained a judge’s forged signature. Having never actually filed a complaint on behalf of his client, Elstein further misrepresented that the case was poorly sealed due to a US Department of Justice investigation. To further his fraudulent scheme, Elstein presented his clients with a bogus settlement agreement between the client and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California. It wasn’t until the company contacted the U.S. Attorney’s Office to authenticate the settlement agreement that it discovered the agreement was a fake.
Elstein also admitted to fabricating depositions in a federal case in Washington state in September 2015. Because those depositions were false, no one came forward for them. Nonetheless, Elstein had a court reporter present and made a formal record of non-appearances. Elstein also billed the client for attending the false depositions and his travel expenses to Seattle.
Elstein also falsely told the victim that he obtained a $ 4.25 million judgment in his favor and provided the victim with a fake court order containing the forged signature of a judge. When the victim traveled to Seattle to collect the judgment, the court informed her that such a case did not exist.
In total, Elstein’s conduct resulted in losses of at least $ 358,855 for his victims.
After pleading guilty in this case, Elstein will face a legal maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
The FBI investigated this matter.
Deputy US Attorney Agustín D. Orozco of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section is continuing this case.