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Ex-Lawyer Pleads No Contest in Theft Case

February 25, 1988|STEPHANIE O'NEILL | Times Staff Writer

Former Glendale Bar Assn. president Eugene M. Giometti, charged with stealing more than $250,000 from a dozen clients, pleaded no contest Tuesday to 11 counts of embezzlement and one count of forgery.

In a plea bargain, the court will dismiss 16 other counts of grand theft and forgery committed against the same clients, Deputy Dist. Atty. Walter H. Lewis said.

Sentencing is scheduled in June. Giometti faces up to four years in state prison, Lewis said.

"We finally came to the conclusion that there was no question he injured people because of his conduct," said Richard Helphand, Giometti's attorney. "And, instead of going through all this stuff, we decided to approach the problem head-on."

Psychiatric Evaluation Due

Giometti, 41, now a resident of Stockton, is free on bail until March 29, when he will undergo psychiatric evaluation at the California Institution for Men at Chino.

Helphand said the evaluation may explain Giometti's drastic personality change.

"Here's a man who's contributed so much to professionalism and to the public and has lived a life where no violations were involved; then, all of a sudden, wow! He's involved in criminal conduct that's hurt a lot of people," Helphand said.

Giometti, who served as bar association president in 1980-81 and was named Glendale Chamber of Commerce "man of the year" in 1983, was charged with embezzling the money from his clients over two years beginning in 1983.

He stole by forging his clients' names on insurance checks or diverting money from trust funds to his private accounts, police said.

2 Widows Defrauded

Among those he defrauded were two widows who entrusted their husbands' life insurance money to him, police said.

In a 1986 interview, Giometti, who had a lucrative family law and personal-injury practice, blamed his downfall on drinking brought on by social and business pressures. He said it wasn't until 1985 that he realized he had acted improperly.

He participated in a number of community activities, including coaching Little League and chairing Glendale's prestigious Adventist Medical Center Foundation. He was also a member of the Jaycees.

Giometti received his law degree from the University of Santa Clara in 1971.

A year later, he became an associate of Melby & Anderson, a Glendale law firm.

Giometti resigned from the State Bar of California in March, 1986, after it investigated complaints that he had embezzled from his clients.

He was criminally charged four months later and surrendered to the court in August, 1986.

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