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Southern California lawyer faces disbarment and felony charges

A southern California lawyer who was arrested in Georgia as a fugitive from justice was returned to Santa Barbara last month where he faces charges of selling phony securities and defrauding an elder. PHILIP ERIC MYERS [#77543], 59, also will be disbarred if the Supreme Court accepts a recommendation from State Bar Court Judge Richard Platel, who placed him on inactive status in August as the result of four acts of misconduct.

Philip Eric Myers

Philip Myers

In a declaration in support of an arrest warrant, Santa Barbara Sheriff Detective Robert Minter wrote that Myers received $55,000 from an individual to whom he offered “a new investment opportunity in Typhoon Security Technology Inc.,” a purported bomb detection firm. The company was suspended by the Franchise Tax Board in 2007.

In his request for a bail increase, Minter wrote that the sheriff’s office is investigating the possible misappropriation by Myers of about $1.6 million from another trust account. In addition, he said the Pasadena Police Department is investigating a possible misappropriation of $215,000 from a trust, and Alaska authorities are looking into the possible theft by Myers and another trustee of $5 million from a trust. Typhoon Security Technology allegedly received $1 million from the trust in that matter.

He is charged in Santa Barbara with three felonies: two securities violations stemming from the sale of shares of a non-existent corporation and theft from an elder. Minter asked that bail be set at $1 million.

Myers reported a Santa Barbara address to the State Bar for many years and in February reported a move to Pasadena. When he was arrested, he was in a home outside Atlanta that he shared with a registered sex offender, according to published reports. He was held in Georgia’s Gwinnett County jail for 10 days.

In the State Bar matter, which proceeded as a default case when Myers didn’t appear for trial, Platel recommended Myers’ disbarment after finding he misappropriated more than $89,000 from a trust and committed three acts of moral turpitude.

Myers became the trustee of the Buckalew Trust in 2001 and transferred money in and out of the trust account for several years. He wrote checks to his ex-wife ($4,275), his daughter in England ($20,000) and CompUSA ($1,845) from the account, and transferred some other client funds into the account. When a home owned by the trust was sold, proceeds totaling $95,721 were deposited in the trust account. Just under $6,700 was disbursed to two beneficiaries, one with a cognitive disability who received assistance from a nonprofit organization that helped pay his bills.

When the account was closed, it held a balance of $176.84. With the exception of the $6,690 that went to the beneficiaries, no money was disbursed for the benefit of the trust or its beneficiaries, Platel found. He said Myers breached his fiduciary duties to the trust and misappropriated at least $89,021. He also did not maintain complete records of trust funds and didn’t respond to requests for an inventory of the trust’s assets or an accounting of its funds.

Although Myers practiced law for 29 years without any discipline, his record was not compelling enough to outweigh “his very serious misconduct.”

Myers “abandoned his fiduciary duties that he owed to the Buckalew Trust and its beneficiaries and has offered no explanation regarding the misappropriation of at least $89,021.04,” Platel wrote.

At the same time he issued the disbarment recommendation, Platel placed Myers on inactive status, finding he poses a danger to the public.