A Campbell attorney who was placed on interim
suspension in November has resigned from the State Bar after pleading
guilty to forgery and grand theft in connection with a scheme
prosecutors said enabled him to defraud his victims of more than
$600,000. The resignation of ROGER LOUIS MAINO [#34717], 66,
took effect Feb. 15, 2001. It was part of a plea agreement reached
with Santa Clara County prosecutors after Maino pleaded guilty to five
felony counts of forgery, grant theft and securities fraud.
Deputy District Attorney Joseph P. Reader said
Maino embezzled from clients through his client trust account, forged
deeds of trust, stole clients' security interests in real estate,
stole proceeds from the sale of real property and engaged in
His troubles stemmed from living beyond his
means, Reader said, and most of the stolen money was used to prop up a
failing check-cashing business, which Maino apparently hoped would
support him in retirement. He also owned a $2 million-plus home in Los
Gatos and two condominiums in La Quinta.
"Instead of refinancing or seeking out loans
from friends or tightening his belt, he just dipped into his trust
account and took money for his personal expenses," Reader said.
"Usually he repaid quickly, but he'd been stealing for years."
In fact, Maino was disciplined by the State Bar
in 1993 for embezzling client funds from at least three clients over a
long period of time, but he was not prosecuted criminally. However, by
1999, when he had not repaid a client who had loaned him money, his
schemes began to unravel.
According to papers Reader filed in connection
with a sentencing hearing later this month, Maino had received a
personal loan for $16,500 in 1997 from Ann Sebastian, securing the
loan with a deed of trust. When he sold the property in question in
1999, Sebastian did not receive any of the proceeds.
She presented the deed of trust to the Santa
Clara County recorder's office, where she learned it had never been
filed and that the information on the document was forged.
The discovery led to an investigation, turning up
eight more victims, including clients, long-time friends and
associates, and even a physician and one-time classmate who had
treated Maino's wife for cancer.
Three victims invested $375,000 in Mobile Money
Corporation (MMC), Maino's check-cashing business. It operated a
fleet of six minivans that visited companies on a routine basis to
cash payroll checks for employees working for 50 companies based
throughout Northern California.
MMC went out of business in late 1999.
Maino told the investors he placed two-thirds of
the money in certificates of deposit, which were supposedly used to
secure a line of credit to be used in the business. There is no
evidence the funds were placed in a CD, and there is evidence that the
line of credit Maino used was unsecure, Reader said.
A couple who had invested $150,000 sought to get
their money back, and Maino gave them a forged deed of trust on his
home in Los Gatos, Reader said, adding that his technique was similar
to that used with Sebastian.
Two other investors gave Maino $150,000 and
$75,000 respectively and were repaid late or only partially repaid.
An elderly couple who loaned Maino $25,000
received a deed of trust on his home in La Quinta to secure the loan.
When Maino failed to repay the loan, the couple's attorney tried to
foreclose on the property but learned Maino filed the deed in Santa
Clara County rather than southern California.
The attorney then learned Maino signed the deed
as an individual when it was actually in a living trust and had to be
signed by Maino's wife as well. Maino offered to negotiate the terms
of the loan by offering to sell the couple an investment in MMC.
He embezzled client trust funds from three other
clients and without their authorization made payments to Mobile Money.
Reader said Maino took $25,000 entrusted to him
by a client who wanted to make a down payment on a bar. More than
$52,000 from another client's living trust was withdrawn "for
questionable purposes," although Maino did apply that amount towards
a down payment on a home his client bought. He also spent $150,000 of
$1.1 million he was holding for a corporation for whom he was general
In all three cases, Maino used most of the money
to make unauthorized payments to Mobile Money.
He also stole $35,000 from a small family
business he represented as corporate attorney. The funds were to be
used to settle a lawsuit. The money gone, he could not complete the
settlement. Maino later sent additional legal bills to the company,
which Reader described as "nothing more than not-so-cleverly
disguised thefts, representing [Maino's] ill-gotten gains as a
result of his 'churning' his client's account."
Maino is due to be sentenced April 20, and
although he received a guarantee of no state prison as part of his
plea agreement, Reader will ask that he spend 12 months in the county
jail and complete restitution of about $79,000 to his victims.