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Former Lawyer Gets Prison Term

Ex-O.C. attorney faces four years and must pay restitution for theft of clients' settlements in cases, including UCI's embryo scandal.

October 21, 2003|David Reyes | Times Staff Writer

A former Orange County attorney convicted of stealing thousands of dollars in settlements to clients he and his then-wife represented during the UC Irvine fertility clinic scandal was sentenced Monday to four years in state prison.

Mark Elliot Roseman, 54, who pleaded guilty last month to taking settlement money, was also ordered to pay slightly more than $330,000 in restitution.

Roseman was led from the courtroom in handcuffs after being sentenced by Superior Court Judge Richard F. Toohey.

Roseman and his former wife and law partner, Melanie Blum, gained prestige in the 1990s for their roles in high-profile cases. He concentrated on representing clergy sex-abuse victims. She represented victims of alleged medical wrongdoing, including women whose embryos were stolen at UCI's now-defunct Center for Reproductive Health -- a scandal that drew national attention and ended with the university paying nearly $20 million to 107 couples.

"It's a shame when they turn to attorneys who they trust and then become a victim a second time," Deputy Dist. Atty. Doug Brannen said after the sentencing.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday October 22, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 60 words Type of Material: Correction
Fertility scandal -- An article in Tuesday's California section about two attorneys accused of stealing settlement money from patients who sued UC Irvine after the 1995 fertility-clinic scandal incorrectly reported that three doctors stole eggs and embryos from patients. Two doctors at the clinic were linked to the thefts. A third, Sergio Stone, was convicted of fraudulently billing insurance companies.

The couple, who divorced in 2001, were charged with looting $1.5 million in settlements that should have gone to clients.

The charges contended that settlement money was taken from victims of the fertility scandal and skimmed from the winnings of plaintiffs in other cases, including one in which a baby suffered brain damage after an obstetrician allegedly left the hospital to have her hair done.

Blum, 53, gained a national reputation in the late 1990s as lead attorney in a series of lawsuits against UCI and the former center. Three doctors at the fertility clinic stole eggs and embryos from fertility treatment patients and implanted them into other infertile women.

Blum's trial is set for Nov. 7.

Both attorneys blamed the other for misspending clients' money on business and personal expenses, including a bar mitzvah for their son at the Newport Marriott in 2001.

As the couple's law practice succeeded, the two attorneys won lucrative settlements. But their financial and personal problems grew. By 1999, the two had separated. A year later, Roseman filed for bankruptcy, and in 2001, the couple divorced. Documents in the court file showed they were $1.3 million in debt.

The state bar's "client security fund," which is designed to compensate clients who are shortchanged by their attorneys, paid a total of $51,769 to three of Roseman's former clients.

One was a Mission Viejo man who sued his church, saying a priest with a molestation history had sexually assaulted him after slipping him drugs.

Roseman obtained a $25,000 settlement in 1999 but never paid his client and then declared bankruptcy several months later, according to the man's testimony during a court hearing in March. Roseman resigned from the state bar in early 2000.

Blum filed for bankruptcy late last year but did not complete the process.

In late 2002, Blum got into trouble for her handling of cases, though none was related to the criminal complaints she faces.

She was accused of charging clients in a medical malpractice case an illegal fee and mishandling their funds.

Bar officials suspended Blum for a month, and she was placed on two months' probation and ordered to submit quarterly audits. She is on the bar's "active" list of attorneys.

*

Times staff writer Mai Tran contributed to this report.

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