Former Leading Asbestos Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Fraud Charges

September 19, 2007

A once-prominent attorney who specialized in asbestos lawsuits pleaded guilty this week in Miami to fraud charges involving thousands of former clients and could face up to 15 years in federal prison.

Louis S. Robles, 59, pleaded guilty to three counts of mail fraud under an agreement with prosecutors that requires restitution of $1.3 million be paid to about 4,400 of his former clients.

U.S. District Judge Alan Gold set sentencing for Dec. 4, with each count carrying a potential five-year prison term.

Last spring, Robles agreed to plead guilty, but Gold rejected it because the maximum possible sentence was 10 years in prison. Gold expressed concern that the sentence was not long enough, especially considering the restitution was only a fraction of what Robles allegedly stole from clients.

Prosecutors, however, said the $1.3 million in a frozen bank account was the only amount that could be recovered from Robles, who has fallen far from his once-flamboyant lifestyle. An attorney who once jetted around the country and was known for his stylish clothes now is being held without bail at Miami’s federal detention center.

Robles once represented more than 7,000 clients in lawsuits against companies that made asbestos, which has been linked to cancer and other serious health problems. Over a 13-year period ending in fall 2002, Robles collected more than $164 million in about 75,000 lawsuit settlements, according to court documents.

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