That’s the message that a recent press release from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office sends. The press release involves the recent conviction of Ross Stanley Berton, age 61. Mr. Berton pleaded guilty to 15 counts of grand theft, two counts of offering false evidence, one count of forgery and one count of identity theft. Fifteen counts were dismissed as part of the plea agreement, the District Attorney stated.
The LA Superior Court judge who took the plea sentenced Mr. Berton to 12 years state prison. Berton, who pleaded to at least one count for each of the 16 victims, also was ordered to pay restitution totaling $346,826. He has been in custody since his arrest on January 4, 2008.
The District Attorney indicated that Mr. Berton unlawfully practiced law out of a lavishly furnished mid-Wilshire area office, and victimized people from the Armenian, Iranian, Latino and Russian communities. Mr. Berton allegedly targeted people from immigrant communities who were reluctant to seek legal advice because of their mistrust of the U.S. legal system.
According to the District Attorney, Mr. Berton used an elaborate network of associates whom he paid to refer clients. Often times, these associates were members of the same immigrant communities as the victims. Mr. Berton allegedly extorted more than $120,000 from his victims, some of whom now face being removed from the United States by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.