Rancho Santa Fe personal injury attorney receives sentence, fine

A Rancho Santa Fe personal injury attorney who defrauded clients and investors was sentenced Nov. 2 to five months in federal prison and was also ordered to pay $150,000 restitution and a $100,000 fine.

U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez ordered Todd Macaluso — a 53-year-old married father of two children — to surrender to federal authorities Jan. 8 to begin serving his time.

Macaluso pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud last spring, admitting that he forged his clients’ signatures and used forged notary stamps to convince potential investors to advance him millions of dollars.

“Macaluso’s clients were stabbed in the back by the lawyer who was supposed to have their back,’’ said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. “Today there is a modicum of justice for them.’’

Court papers show Macaluso funded his personal injury law practice by entering into “funding agreements’’ with various investors. Under those agreements, investors advanced Macaluso money in exchange for the right to collect a portion of his clients’ recoveries in the future.

Although clients had to consent to the collateralization of their lawsuits in order for the transfers to be valid, Macaluso concealed those arrangements from many of his clients and forged their signatures on the financing documents, according to prosecutors.

To conceal his scheme, Macaluso also forged the signatures and stamps of notary publics who purportedly witnessed the executions of legal documents, but who, like his clients, had no knowledge of the arrangements.

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