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Loan scheme and cover-up results in disbarment of Pasadena attorney

A Southern California attorney who concocted a scheme to get loans based on phony settlements and proved relentless in his efforts to cover up his wrongdoing has been stripped of his law license.

JAMAUL DMITRI CANNON [#229047], 40, of Pasadena, was disbarred Jan. 19, 2017 and ordered to pay $15,075 plus interest in restitution related to that scheme and for failing to repay unearned fees to client.

In his decision recommending Cannon be disbarred, State Bar Court Judge Donald F. Miles noted that Cannon’s “efforts to avoid responsibility for his actions have frequently been at the potential expense of innocent others.

“This demonstrated willingness by Respondent to jeopardize and sacrifice the interests of innocent bystanders to avoid responsibility for his own misconduct is a source of considerable concern by this court regarding the ongoing safety of the public and the profession,” he wrote.

According to the decision, Cannon was in need of money in early 2013 when he came up with a plan to get “settlement advances” from various companies that loan money to attorneys who are in line to receive contingency fees from personal injury settlements. Though primarily a family law practitioner, Cannon had been involved briefly in a personal injury matter and used that knowledge to apply for the advances.

Cannon obtained a $30,000 advance from Alliance Legal Solutions based on false information, namely that he had just settled the matter on behalf of his client for $320,000. Soon after, he tried to obtain a settlement advance from a second company, Lawyers Funding Group, but they refused to loan him anything after he submitted two very different versions of what he claimed was the settlement agreement.

Lawyers Funding notified Alliance of their concerns but by that point Alliance had already given Cannon the $30,000, the decision said. Cannon agreed to return the money to Alliance but only repaid them $1,000.

Cannon received another $15,000 from Peachtree Funding, which deposited the money in his client trust account believing his claims that he’d secured a $212,000 settlement in the same personal injury case. Cannon provided the company with a fabricated agreement supposedly signed by all the parties involved which stated that the settlement would be paid on May 8, 2013. All the signatures, except for Cannon’s, were forged.

After the May 8 date passed and Peachtree tried repeatedly to get an update from Cannon on the case, the company contacted the defense attorney and learned there was no settlement and the case was still ongoing. Concerned his signature had been forged, the defense attorney contacted Cannon, who claimed to have no knowledge of the Peachtree loan.

In subsequent emails to the attorney and a Peachtree representative Cannon continued to plead ignorance and claimed his computer system had been hacked. The defense attorney filed a complaint with the State Bar on Jan. 31, 2014.

During the State Bar’s investigation, Cannon said he’d been the victim of identity theft and that hackers applied for the Peachtree funding in his name. He also submitted doctored bank statements intended to hide the fact that Peachtree had deposited $15,000 in his client trust account.

In his response to the notice of disciplinary charges against him Cannon then claimed his former law partner William Watkins, with whom he had a falling out, sent the documents to Peachtree. He later admitted at trial that Watkins was not involved.

The second matter Cannon was disciplined for stems from his actions related to one of Watkins’ cases. When the two former partners had their falling out in November 2014, Cannon locked Watkins out of the office. As a result, Watkins felt he could no longer represent a woman in a civil suit and the woman had to go through Cannon for a refund of unearned fees.

Cannon did not provide an accounting for advanced fees for more than five months after he was asked and told the State Bar he had returned $2,500 to the woman, when he hadn’t. When he finally did prepare an accounting, Cannon acknowledged he owed the woman $75 of the advanced fees. As of August 2016, Cannon had not repaid the money to the client or to Peachtree.

Discipline-related resources from the State Bar: