Disbarred attorney from Rancho Santa Fe guilty in drug smuggling plot

SAN DIEGO — A disbarred attorney from Rancho Santa Fe who once represented accused-daughter-killer Casey Anthony remained jailed in Brooklyn Monday awaiting sentencing after a jury convicted him of plotting to smuggle $13 million worth of cocaine from Ecuador to Central America and ultimately the United States.

Todd Macaluso, 55, was convicted Friday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn on one federal count of international cocaine distribution conspiracy, according to the New York Daily News.

Prosecutors said the disbarred lawyer was planning to fly more than 3,000 pounds of cocaine valued at about $13 million aboard his Falcon 10 airplane and drop the illicit cargo in Honduras, where it would then be smuggled into the United States, according to the New York tabloid and the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The plan was for Macaluso to get $185,000 in return for transporting the drugs from South to Central America, prosecutors said.

Macaluso was disbarred after his 2014 guilty plea to wire fraud in a San Diego federal court saw him sentenced to five months in federal prison. He was also ordered to pay $150,000 restitution and a $100,000 fine in that case, in which he forged the signatures of clients and stamps of notary publics to hide a fraud scheme.

Authorities arrested Macaluso in Haiti last November as he and two co-defendants finished their plans to fly to Ecuador and then Honduras, federal prosecutors said. The other two men pleaded guilty prior to trial, but Macaluso took his case to a jury for a weeklong trial that started last Monday. The jury deliberated for just an hour Friday before returning the guilty verdict.

“Mr. Macaluso was disappointed with the verdict but looks forward to being vindicated in future proceedings,” his attorney, Michael Gold, told the New York Daily News.

Macaluso rose to prominence as a personal injury lawyer and represented Anthony in 2009 and 2010. The Florida mother was acquitted in 2011 of murdering her 2-year-old daughter.

Macaluso was out of federal prison on supervised release at the time of his arrest last year. An experienced pilot, Macaluso had filed for bankruptcy after his previous legal troubles and was working as a pilot after he was disbarred.

Federal prosecutors said drug traffickers contacted Macaluso while he was working flying wealthy clients to a Mexican resort where he owns property. He allegedly made his way to Haiti last November without the required approval from his probation officer, then planned to fly to South America to pick up the drugs. Instead, Haitian law enforcement arrested him and his co-conspirators, and they were sent to New York to face the federal charges.