A federal lawsuit accuses prominent Los Angeles attorney Thomas Girardi of stealing funds owed to relatives of plane crash victims to underwrite “a public image of obscene wealth” for himself and his wife, pop singer and “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Erika Jayne.
The lawsuit alleges that Girardi embezzled proceeds of settlements that plane manufacturer Boeing paid out as compensation to dozens of families earlier this year. The suit was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Chicago by Edelson PC, an Illinois law firm that worked with Girardi representing the victims’ surviving relatives.
“Tom has resorted to embezzling the proceeds of settlements that should have been directed to his clients — including … the widows and orphans who lost loved ones in the tragic crash of Lion Air Flight 610 — in order to continue funding his and Erika’s lavish Beverly Hills lifestyles,” according to the complaint.
The Lion Air flight crashed in the ocean off Indonesia in 2018, killing all 189 people on board. The plane was a 737 Max, the jet that Boeing subsequently grounded due to problems with its anti-stall software.
Girardi, who is best known for his work on toxic tort cases against Pacific Gas & Electric depicted in the film “Erin Brockovich,” did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
He has refused to hand the money over despite months of demands, the lawsuit alleged.
Jayne, whose legal name is Erika Girardi, married the famed attorney in 2000 but filed for divorce last month, citing irreconcilable differences. Her representatives did not return requests for comment.
The suit contends the divorce “is simply a sham attempt to fraudulently protect Tom’s and Erika’s money from those that seek to collect on debts owed by Tom” and his firm, Girardi Keese.
The amount Boeing paid to the families is confidential but “substantial,” according to the suit.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.