East County News Service
November 10, 2018 (La Mesa) – Clayton Marlow Anderson, Jr., a former La Mesa attorney disbarred in 2015, was sentenced Friday to serve 18 months in federal prison for defrauding clients and investors. He was also ordered to pay over $1.5 million in restitution to his victims.
Anderson pled guilty on July 3, 2018 to wire fraud and money laundering n connection with his fraudulent investment scheme, known alternatively as the “Clayton M. Anderson Monthly Income Plan,” “Anderson Plan,” or “A-Plan,” the U.S. Attorney’s office reports.
“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,” said U.S. Attorney Adam L. Braverman. “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.”
During a hearing Friday before U.S. District Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo, Anderson was found to have breached his duty as an attorney and a fiduciary by involving his clients in “A-Plan,” a scheme to solicit loans to finance the costs and fees related to construction defect lawsuits brought by his law firm.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, from 2005 until 2014, Anderson solicited unsecured loans from six individuals and paid them high rates of interest between 8% and 13% each year. However, Anderson eventually refashioned these unsecured 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 Corporation (“JPPC”), who had hired Anderson to represent them in a construction defect lawsuit against the builders of their office park in Murrieta, California. 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% annual return on their “investment.”
As a part of his guilty plea, Anderson 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 over $1 million under management and that A-Plan was the beneficiary of a $4.4 million insurance policy on his life. Anderson admitted 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.
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 on January 2, 2013, when he transferred over $30,000 in money derived from his fraud scheme into a retirement account under his control.
In his plea agreement, Anderson 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. Anderson also admitted misrepresenting and concealing 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 in January 2015.
Anderson admitted that if A-Plan’s participants 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.
“The FBI vigorously investigates those who breach the attorney-client trust relationship by committing fraud and deceit,” commented FBI Special Agent in Charge John Brown. “Today, Defendant Clayton Anderson, Jr., received an appropriate penalty that will hopefully bring closure for the victims of this egregious fraud.”
“The blatant fraud and deceit carried out by this former attorney is unconscionable,” stated Special Agent in Charge R. Damon Rowe with IRS Criminal Investigation. “The honesty and integrity Americans expect from their attorney must never be compromised, which is why we will continue to work with all levels of law enforcement to root out unscrupulous attorneys and hold them accountable.”
This case was prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey D. Hill, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph J. M. Orabona.