Attorney’s Clients Now on Hook for Millions of Dollars; CA State Bar Says It Will Respond to Records Request in Probe

Via Unsplash.com

By Robert Hansen

LOS ANGELES, CA – Anaheim attorney Kenneth Catanzarite of Catanzarite Law Corporation retains a spotless disciplinary record dating back to his June 1984 admission and continues to practice law despite an ever-increasing record of misconduct reflected by court orders and client depositions, The Vanguard has learned.

The Vanguard has drawn comparisons between Catanzarite and Thomas V. Girardi, who was notoriously indicted on wire fraud charges in February 2023. The California State Bar admitted its staff was receiving bribes from Girardi in exchange for  protection.

A recent appellate brief discusses how Catanzarite has “relentlessly harassed Respondent Todd A. Mikles and his various business interests for nearly ten years, initiating more than 17 lawsuits, arbitrations, adversary actions, and other claims, including this matter, against Mikles and companies that he manages or controls in various State and Federal Courts, Bankruptcy Courts, and arbitrations.”

Nine of those 17 lawsuits against Mikles and his business interests were filed by Catanzarite on behalf of an elderly man, Richard Carlson, as purported lead of a large class of real estate investors.

Carlson, however, testified on February 12, 2020, that he didn’t believe he had suffered damages, was “owed nothing,” was not seeking an attorney when he was solicited at his home by Catanzarite, and that Carlson had “no idea” why he was at a deposition.

Asked how he came to meet his attorney Kenneth Catanzarite, Carlson testified, “Like I said, Tye Winfield directed him out there, gave Ken my address.”

Catanzarite sought hundreds of millions of dollars in damages on Carlson’s behalf anyway, leading to a series of court orders finding Catanzarite lied on an affidavit, deliberately sought to undermine the bankruptcy process, willfully violated an injunction, and that Catanzarite “refused to be governed” by the rules of professional conduct.

Catanzarite was sanctioned for tens of thousands of dollars in pursuit of false claims for Carlson, upheld by the Court of Appeals.

More related evidence has emerged from the decade-long scheme against Mikles.

The Vanguard reported on September 7, 2023 Catanzarite was hit with $37,800 in sanctions for filing frivolous papers unsupported by law, and Catanzarite’s clients now have to pay a total of $343,586.00 in costs and fees.

Notably, those claims were filed on behalf of plaintiffs other than Carlson, indicating yet another conflict of interest for the embattled attorney Catanzarite who has a penchant for representing multiple sides of the same or related disputes.

According to records of an arbitration proceeding for yet another group of purported plaintiffs against Mikles’ interests, Catanzarite’s purported clients are now on the hook for attorney’s fees in the amount of $1,686,500, costs of $36,200, and expert costs of $114,800 for a total of $1,837,500.

“Not content with the distributions and proceeds they received” from a real estate deal involving Mikles, Catanzarite and his clients were found by arbitrator Neil R. O’Hanlon to “engage in legal wishful thinking.

“They seek a viable legal theory on which to claim damages, despite the fact that they did not take the risk of investing more money to increase their ownership interests…[Their] case is largely based on not only speculation but also hindsight as to what they allegedly would have done if they had been offered the opportunity to increase their investments.

“However, the evidence presented does not support their contentions…[T]hey have not proven securities fraud or any other wrongdoing. Accordingly, they are not entitled to any of the relief they have requested, and [Catanzarite and his clients] shall recover nothing[.]”

Apparently undeterred, Catanzarite is at it again—this time for a whole new “client.”

The Vanguard has obtained a Feb. 15, 2021, deposition transcript of Mary Jo Saul, once married to Tye Winfield—the same individual who instructed Catanzarite to solicit Carlson at his home when he was not seeking an attorney and did not believe he suffered damages.

Saul is now purported “liquidating trustee” for an entity “NNN Capital Fund I, LLC” (“Cap Fund”) in the same real estate project subject of other failed claims filed by Catanzarite for other parties.

Much like Carlson’s Feb. 12, 2020, testimony indicates, Saul’s deposition suggests she has little understanding of claims filed on her behalf by Catanzarite. This time, Catanzarite is seeking $20 million.

Catanzarite pursued similar claims on behalf of other parties in the same or related matters over the course of the last decade resulting in material harm to his own clients.

Saul’s deposition suggests her role as “liquidating trustee” after the death of her belated husband Tye Windfield is based upon representations of Catanzarite and others hired by his firm who filed the complaint.

Saul does not appear to understand the claims, and the deposition indicates that she did not even approve of the filings made on her behalf—just like Richard Carlson.

Saul testified she had only read the complaint and underlying exhibits in the days preceding her deposition. The circumstances by which she became purported “liquidating trustee” for the Cap Fund—which appears to be non-operating—were also called into question.

Saul even appears to change her testimony toward the end of the deposition based on direction from Catanzarite, when opposing counsel said, “I’m asking you—you’ve given one testimony and you just changed your testimony just now and I want to know whether that results of any discussion that you had with Mr. Catanzarite?”

“A discussion, as well as going through the second amended complaint…I only spent a couple hours on the weekend looking through the second amended complaint” Saul testified.

Catanzarite’s relentless pursuit of claims amidst material conflicts of interest underlying a real estate transaction he didn’t like are akin to his pursuit of claims filed against Mobile Farming Systems, Inc. (“MFS”) and Cultivation Technologies, Inc. (“CTI”).

First, Catanzarite started representing individual Denise Pinkerton on Sept. 14, 2018, against MFS and CTI. Then, in violation of his duty to Pinkerton, Catanzarite switched sides and started appearing for both MFS and CTI (at the same time, as he was suing each company) without authority, which the Court of Appeal determined was “absurd.”

Amidst that scheme, the Court of Appeal separately determined three cases were filed against Justin S. Beck without objective probable cause, with malice, that ended reflecting a lack of merit.

On October 20, 2023, State Bar’s new Chair Brandon Stallings received a formal request to disclose all investigations and complaints filed against Catanzarite and other members of his firm dating back to June 1984.

A similar request by L.A. Times regarding Girardi disclosed hundreds of complaints, in which the State Bar conceded that its staff was accepting bribes from Girardi.

State Bar Board Secretary Louisa Ayrapetyan confirmed receipt of the formal disclosure request on Oct. 20, 2023.

Stallings said he will respond to the request but has yet to do so as of publication.

About The Author

Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Robert is covering the Yolo County DA's race for the Vanguard.

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