On Friday, June 21, 2023, the Supreme Court of California ordered the suspension of Los Angeles attorney Shahin Motallebi for willfully violating the rule governing the safekeeping of client funds.
The case is titled “in re Shahin Motallebi,” and was brought by the State Bar of California under case no. SBC-23-O-30226.
The charges cited Motallebi’s violation of Rules of Professional Conduct 1.15(a).
The California Rules of Professional Conduct can be found here.
According to the filing, sometime between October 2019 and November 2019, Motallebi acted as an escrow agent in a Bitcoin transaction that turned out to be a fraudulent scheme. The scheme depleted Motallebi’s Bank of America client trust account, which held funds for Motallebi’s clients. The incident involved a sale and purchase transaction of Bitcoins between a seller and a buyer, with Montallebi facilitating the escrow process.
The filing states:
“On November 18, 2019, respondent called the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) West Los Angeles Office multiple times to report the incident, as evidenced by respondent’s phone records. FBI directed respondent to submit a report online. Respondent subsequently submitted two written complaints to the FBI/Internet Crime Complaint Center via its online complaint form and attached all written communications with the individuals involved in the fraudulent scheme, his bank activity reports, and various relevant records.”
The filing continues:
“Between December 17, 2019, and September 1, 2022, respondent corresponded with Bank of America’s legal department and litigated the claim over the loss of funds with Bank of America in the civil court, attempting to restore the balance of his CTA. The civil lawsuit with Bank of America ended in a dismissal in favor of Bank of America.”
The filing additionally notes:
“Respondent also opened two claims with his general liability insurance and personal property insurance relating to the funds lost due to the fraudulent scheme. Both insurance carriers declined coverage.”
Thereafter, on March 16, 2023, Motallebi and the State Bar through its Deputy Trial Counsel, Mengsu Liu, submitted to the Court a Stipulation Re Facts, Conclusions of Law, and Disposition, agreeing that Montallebi be sanctioned with a one-year stayed suspension with eight years of probation including restitution.
Upon consideration of the parties’ stipulation, the Supreme Court of Florida ordered the suspension of Motallebi.
The Disposition reads:
“The court orders that Shahin Motallebi (Respondent), State Bar Number 210870, is suspended from the practice of law in California for one year, execution of that period of suspension is stayed, and Respondent is placed on probation for eight years.”
Motallebi was also ordered to produce to the State Bar’s Office of Probation evidence of taking and passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination.
Costs were awarded to the State Bar and one-third of which shall be paid with Motallebi’s annual fees for each of the years 2024, 2025, and 2026.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.