Not guilty plea from civil attorney accused of stealing thousands - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Not guilty plea from civil attorney accused of stealing thousands from clients

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A Vista personal injury attorney accused of stealing more than $100,000 from two clients over a five-year period beginning in 2000 pleaded not guilty today to five felony charges, including grand theft and financial elder abuse.

David. G. Ronquillo, 64, was arrested Friday at his home in Escondido.

At his arraignment today, Judge David Szumowski ordered the defendant held on $50,000 bail.

Defense attorney Roland Haddad unsuccessfully argued that Ronquillo be released from custody on his own recognizance.

Haddad said the charges stem from a $135,000 loss from a $235,000 check written in December in 2005 and another $10,000 loss from April 2007.

The State Bar of California launched an investigation in 2005 which is still active, Haddad said.

Several attorneys have written declarations speaking highly of Ronquillo, Haddad said.

He said Ronquillo was admitted to the bar in 1975 and worked for the District Attorney's Office for a short time before going into private practice.

According to the State Bar Web site, Ronquillo's license to practice law is inactive and he is not eligible to practice. Deputy District Attorney Jeffrey Dort said Ronquillo was suspended in 2004 in an unrelated matter.

In that case, according to the Web site, Ronquillo was suspended for 30 days after admitting that he repeatedly issued checks drawn against his client trust to pay for personal or business expenses. Ronquillo also said he commingled client and business funds in the trust account.

The current charges stem from allegations raised by two of Ronquillo's clients, both of whom complained to the State Bar, prosecutors said.

Ronquillo, who has no prior criminal record, faces five years and eight months in prison if convicted in the current case, where he faces two counts each of embezzlement and grand theft and one count of financial elder abuse.

The judge scheduled a bail review for Thursday, a readiness conference for Oct. 27 and a preliminary hearing for Dec. 2.

More victims are being sought by the District Attorney's Office. Clients of Ronquillo's Amerimex Law Center in Vista who may have been defrauded by the defendant should contact District Attorney Investigator Dan Schmitt at (619) 531-3607. Ronquillo's current business address is 7863 La Mesa Blvd. in La Mesa.

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