The head of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office has officially recused himself from the ongoing federal investigation into fraud and corruption by Tom Girardi and others at his now-defunct law firm, a confirmed Saturday agency spokesperson.
Donald Alway, deputy director in charge of the Los Angeles bureau, has sought recusal from the high-profile investigation after the Times and other outlets reported that his mother, Michelle Alway, was Girardi’s former girlfriend and secretary. . Public records show she and her son own a home in Monterey County paid for by the now-disgraced legal legend.
Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles field office, said in a statement that Donald Alway “has requested the recusal and has not and will not be involved in this matter or any related FBI matter.” Eimiller noted that Alway, who previously headed the FBI office in Mississippi, began his current role on Aug. 29 and that the Girardi investigation “significantly predates his time in the Los Angeles Division.”
Donald Alway, a former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy who joined the FBI in 1996, did not directly answer questions about his and his mother’s relationship with Girardi.
Court records show that Michelle Alway was Girardi’s secretary in the 1970s. Records from Girardi’s second divorce show that in the mid-1990s, after she stopped working at the company, she continued to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars of legal legend.
Girardi bought the Carmel-by-the-Sea home in 1985, and it was meant to be a residence for Michelle Alway, according to court records. The property was put in the name of another attorney then in Girardi’s law firm, Richard Crane, according to a lawsuit Girardi later filed against Crane. It was unclear why Girardi involved Crane in purchasing the property.
Girardi paid more than $131,000 for his home’s mortgage between 1993 and 1998, according to financial records compiled during the lengthy divorce proceedings.
Monterey County records show Donald Alway currently co-owns the residence with his mother and the property is valued at over $1.2 million. Online real estate companies estimate the house to be worth close to $3 million.
During the time that Michelle Alway was receiving the money, Girardi had already begun diverting her clients’ settlement money for her own purposes, according to documents filed by the trustee handling the law firm’s bankruptcy case. Girardi’s massive hijacking continued until 2020, when his law firm imploded and a federal judge in Chicago publicly remanded Girardi for criminal investigation, launching the FBI investigation.
The timing and duration of Michelle Alway and Girardi’s relationship is unclear, and she could not be reached for comment. The attorney has been married three times, most recently to “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Erika Girardi.
Kimberly Archie, a close friend of the Ruigomez family – who had millions of dollars in settlement money robbed by Girardi – and an attorney for other Girardi victims, expressed frustration with the development.
“He only did it because he was called,” Archie said. “How many times will the victims get burned and feel like no one is on their side? Who are we supposed to trust? »
Eimiller said the investigation into Girardi’s firm was being led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles and FBI Special Agent in Charge Brian Gilhooly. Special Agent in Charge Amir Ehsaei, who oversees counterterrorism in the Los Angeles bureau, will serve at Always as deputy director in charge “for the purposes of this investigation,” Eimiller said.
The years-long investigation of Girardi and others affiliated with his law firm became public in recent weeks. Earlier this month, the first public prosecution came to light when federal agents arrested former Girardi & Keese chief financial officer Chris Kamon at a Baltimore airport. Kamon was charged with wire fraud, and in court prosecutors described his alleged embezzlement of $10 million from the firm as a “parallel fraud” on a $100 million fraud scheme carried out by several people close to the firm. of lawyers.
Times editor Harriet Ryan contributed to this report.
Los Angeles Times