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
“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.