Los Altos attorney disbarred for conviction of accessory to felony grand theft, other charges

By Kerry Goff | Aug 17, 2016

SAN FRANCISCO – Melvin Lee Emerich, an attorney who practiced in Los Altos, was disbarred April 15 as a result of his October 2014 conviction for accessory to felony grand theft, multiple counts of money laundering and filing false or forged deeds of trust.

According to the California Bar document, Emerich was involved in a real estate scheme orchestrated by his friend Jay Shah and another man, Kaushal Niroula, to obtain fraudulent loans on properties they did not own, including three condominiums in San Francisco and a Palm Springs property that belonged to a man Niroula is accused of murdering to further the scheme.

“Unbeknownst to the San Francisco property owner, one of Shah’s accomplices was able to get three grant deeds that conveyed ownership of the condos to himself,” the document said. “They were used as security to obtain $1.7 million in loans. Emerich set up a phony corporation and opened a corporate checking account to hold funds from the scheme.”

Furthermore, the evidence reportedly showed that Emerich helped Shah launder the illegally obtained loan funds and wrote multiple checks from the account to himself, Shah’s company and others, Emerich also funneled funds through his sham company to pay for Niroula’s defense in his murder trial.

After having thoroughly reviewed the record of Emerich, including the testimony and exhibits presented at trial, the court recommended that he be disbarred from the practice of law.

“(Emerich) is conclusively presumed, by the record of his conviction in this proceeding, to have committed all of the elements of the crime of which he was convicted,” the official court record said.

The court record also said that the evidence presented at the hearing showed clearly and convincingly that Emerich was deeply mired in the swindle. All decision-making in the scam was made by Shah, but carried out by Emerich, as well as facilitating the setting up of an overseas Swiss bank account for Shah by writing a reference letter for Shah, documents state.

“Therefore, the court concludes that not only did respondent’s criminal conviction involve serious and egregious acts of moral turpitude, but the circumstances surrounding that criminal conduct were also characterized by and included elements of corruption, deception, greed, and dishonesty,” the record said.

The record also explained that Emerich practiced law without discipline for almost 24 years at the time his misconduct commenced. Despite his lack of past discipline, the court found his recent criminal actions too egregious to ignore.

“While (his) conduct does not involve a pattern of wrongdoing over many years, it cannot be said that it involved only isolated instances of wrongdoing. (He) engaged in ongoing dishonest conduct for at least one year,” the record said. “That conduct ended only when he was arrested and charged with criminal violations.”

After considering all factors involved in Emerich’s case, including the serious nature of his misconduct, the aggravating circumstances, the lack of mitigating circumstances, and the case law, the court concluded that to adequately protect the public, the courts, and the legal profession, disbarment was the only appropriate outcome.

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