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Redondo Beach councilman faces new State Bar disciplinary charges



An legal professional serving on the Redondo Seaside Metropolis Council who’s accused of misappropriating half one million {dollars} meant for a former consumer now faces further disciplinary costs over his clarification for why the cash wasn’t handed over.

The 5 disciplinary costs introduced Thursday by the State Bar of California, which embrace looking for to mislead a decide and making misrepresentations to the Superior Courtroom, set in movement a disciplinary course of that, in probably the most excessive circumstances, may finish in disbarment.

The councilman, Zein E. Obagi Jr., has denied the accusations and stated the State Bar is overreaching. He already confronted seven disciplinary costs filed in July 2021, together with an allegation that he “deliberately misappropriated” $515,000.

Two years in the past, in accordance with the disciplinary costs, $1.9 million was deposited into Obagi’s account as a part of a settlement settlement across the sale of a hashish dispensary, Valley Natural Therapeutic Middle. Obagi had represented the house owners and, in accordance with filings from the State Bar, was speculated to switch $515,000 from that settlement cash to his former consumer, Eric Dominguez.

Now, the State Bar alleges he made false statements about what occurred to the cash.

In a lawsuit filed in 2021, Obagi blamed a unique legal professional concerned within the settlement settlement, saying that legal professional was the one chargeable for transferring the settlement cash to Dominguez.

In line with the State Bar, that legal professional had transferred cash to Obagi with the express understanding that he would use a few of it to pay his former consumer.

“The brand new set of costs alleges further misconduct by Obagi, specifically false statements that he made in a lawsuit that he filed in court docket,” stated Chief Trial Counsel George Cardona.

In an interview, Obagi referred to as the most recent costs “ludicrous” and stated he was simply the newest goal of an overzealous State Bar.

“I by no means thought I’d be charged by the bar for something. Now that I’ve been, it’s a complete, absolute nightmare. It’s not justice,” he stated. “I may have been extra diligent at totally different occasions, however that’s the extent of it.”

A latest Occasions investigation discovered the State Bar has a file of going after attorneys with out the capital or political clout to battle again, a inhabitants that’s disproportionately Black, whereas ignoring misconduct by a few of the state’s most outstanding legal professionals, equivalent to Tom Girardi, who misappropriated tens of millions of {dollars} from purchasers and was the topic of greater than 200 State Bar complaints.

Obagi, who stated he’s a part of a small agency, believes the costs towards him are a part of this sample.

“It’s a machine. It’s churning for convictions,” he stated. “That’s all it will get ate up, in order that’s what it’s going for.”

The unique costs, filed in 2021, are nonetheless pending. Obagi stated an settlement between him and the State Bar was rejected by a decide as a result of he stated there was no proof that the alleged misappropriation was intentional.

A standing convention is scheduled for Jan. 30, the place the court docket will determine the right way to proceed on each units of costs.

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