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Ex-Husband Testifies Against Attorney

He says his former wife, accused of stealing from clients, handled most of their firm's finances.

August 11, 2004|David Reyes | Times Staff Writer

The ex-husband and former partner of an attorney who gained national prominence during a fertility clinic scandal at UC Irvine testified Tuesday that his former wife handled most of their law firm's finances.

Mark Elliot Roseman, 54, testified for the prosecution against ex-wife Melanie Blum, who is on trial for stealing from clients she represented in lawsuits against the university. Roseman, who is serving a 4-year prison sentence stemming from the same case, said Blum misspent settlement funds that should have gone to clients.

"She had the ultimate say for money being dispersed," Roseman said.

Blum is charged with 12 counts of grand theft for allegedly siphoning more than $150,000 from settlements in a dozen cases from 1993 to 2000. In all, her clients were awarded $1.5 million.

Roseman pleaded guilty in September to six counts of grand theft in the same case. The two rarely made eye contact Tuesday in Orange County Central Court in Santa Ana. Roseman said he decided to testify after his ex-wife's attorney portrayed him at her preliminary hearing as the one in charge of their financial affairs.

Although the case has largely revolved around finger-pointing between the former spouses, Roseman denied having a personal motive for testifying, saying he only wanted to "bring truth and answer truthfully," at his ex-wife's trial.

Under questioning by prosecutor Douglas Brannan, Roseman told the court that Blum signed numerous bank and client trust account documents, controlled their American Express credit account and attended meetings where the couples agreed to put UC Irvine settlement checks in an offshore account for tax benefits.

Under Barnett's questioning, Roseman acknowledged that he had lied to clients to steal money, but said he did so because it was "part of the Roseman-Blum culture ... the mind set" at the firm.

During the trial, Barnett has attempted to portray Roseman as a manipulator, a husband who controlled his wife at home and at the office.

Roseman denied opening his then-wife's mail at the law office, but he acknowledged that on occasions he instructed the office staff not to give her any bad news about the firm's financial condition or about complaints from their clients to the state bar.

Blum allegedly took the money from client trust accounts, which allow attorneys to deposit settlement funds and withdraw money to cover legal fees. She gained a national reputation in the late 1990s as lead attorney in a landmark series of lawsuits against UC Irvine and its now-closed Center for Reproductive Health.

Physicians Ricardo Asch, Jose P. Balmaceda and Sergio Stone were at the heart of the scandal. The federal government charged Asch and Balmaceda with mail fraud and conspiracy to defraud patients of their genetic material. Asch fled to his native Argentina and Balmaceda to Mexico. Stone was convicted of fraudulently billing insurance companies.

More than 100 couples were paid nearly $20 million to settle their cases.

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