LA MESA, Calif. — A disbarred attorney was sentenced Friday to 18 months in federal prison for defrauding clients and investors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars while running a La Mesa law firm.
Clayton Marlow Anderson Jr. of Mira Loma pleaded guilty in July to wire fraud and money laundering in connection with an investment scheme known alternatively as the “Clayton M. Anderson Monthly Income Plan,” “The Anderson Plan” or “A-Plan.”
During a hearing Friday morning in San Diego federal court, U.S. District Judge Cathy Bencivengo ruled that Anderson breached his duty as an attorney and a fiduciary by involving his clients in a scheme to solicit loans to finance costs and fees related to construction defect lawsuits brought by his law firm.
As part of the sentence, the judge ordered Anderson to pay more than $1.5 million in restitution to his victims.
From 2005 to 2014, Anderson solicited unsecured loans from six people and paid them interest rates between 8 and 13 percent annually, court documents state. The defendant, however, eventually refashioned the loans as an “investment” with guaranteed interest and pitched the investment to his legal clients.
In 2012, Anderson won a $1.8 million legal settlement for Jefferson Pointe Professional Corp., which had hired him in a construction-defect lawsuit against the builders of the firm’s office park in Murrieta.
Instead of paying his clients their rightful share of the legal settlement as required, Anderson repeatedly solicited them on behalf of A-Plan Investment Services Inc., promising JPPC a 13 percent annual return on its investment, according to prosecutors.
As a part of his guilty plea, Anderson, who was disbarred in 2015, admitted that his pitch to his clients violated his duties as an attorney and that he made multiple false claims, including that A-Plan had more than $1 million under management and that it was the beneficiary of a $4.4 million insurance policy on his life.
Anderson admitted that his clients invested $800,000 of their legal settlement into A-Plan in reliance on his false claims and that he engaged in other fraudulent conduct toward his clients.
According to prosecutors, Anderson was in dire financial straits when he solicited the investment. He admitted making a $182,549.69 bank transfer in order to conceal from his clients the fact that he had already withdrawn their settlement money from his client trust account without their permission.
Anderson also admitted that he engaged in a money-laundering transaction in January 2013, when he transferred over $30,000 in funds derived from his fraud scheme into a retirement account under his control.
In his plea agreement, the defendant admitted that his fraud caused his clients to lose over $600,000 and that the six other A-Plan participants lost over $700,000 in money loaned to him.
He also conceded that he misrepresented and concealed a variety of information from the six other A-Plan participants, including his law firm’s bankruptcy, his decision to forfeit all outstanding legal settlement money to the bankruptcy trustee and his suspension and eventual disbarment by the California State Bar.
Anderson acknowledged that if his clients had been aware of those facts, they would not have continued to participate in A-Plan and that his misrepresentations and omissions prevented them from recouping their investments or at the very least mitigating their losses, totaling $1,362,257.50.
“Clayton Anderson put his own financial interests above those of his clients, and he betrayed the trust that they placed in him as their attorney,” San Diego-area U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman said. “This prison sentence serves as a warning and demonstrates the commitment of the United States Attorney’s Office to protecting the rights of investors — especially those investing with their own attorney — to candid, truthful information.”