Bribery allegations surface in Hillbroom case - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Bribery allegations surface in Hillbroom case

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - The administration of more than $90 million awarded to DHL heir Junior Larry Hillbroom, has become the center of a handful of civil lawsuits in California, Hawaii, Guam and Saipan.  While the cases all stem from Hillbroom's original lawsuit against the trustee and his attorneys, the legal twists and turns have now revealed allegations of bribery.

A California man hired to serve as the trustee of the Hillbroom trust back in 1999 is raising some serious allegations against the attorney who hired him.  Keith Waibel was sued along with local attorney David Lujan and Attorney Barry Israel in a civil suit in California by Hillbroom.  The DHL heir alleged the three men maliciously increased their fees to receive more than half of the $90 million he received from his late father's estate.

While Lujan was dismissed from the California lawsuit, as the court there found that it lacked personal jurisdiction over the local attorney who lives on Guam, Waibel filed a cross complaint against Lujan alleging that it was Lujan who conspired to misappropriate Junior's inheritance and developed a fraudulent scheme to transfer money out of the trust.  Waibel claims he was an "unsuspecting trustee" used as a pawn who was under constant threat of termination.

Hillbroom's attorneys, the Girardi-Keese law firm in California, has alleged those who represented Hillbroom when he was a minor took advantage of his young age and conspired to put more in their own pocketbooks instead of their client's.

Hilbroom learned of the increased contingency fees when he met with an FBI agent in 2006.  Statements Hillbroom's attorneys made to KUAM News when the lawsuit was filed in February of last year led to Lujan filing his own defamation lawsuit locally in the Superior Court of Guam.  In that case Lujan alleged that despite performing all of his obligations under the agreements that were approved by various courts, Waibel and the trust allegedly failed to pay him what was owed.

But Waibel contends that his financial records show that Lujan was paid close to $20 million from the Hillbroom trust. Waibel's declaration provides a breakdown of the payments that include nearly $1 million in expense reimbursements, more than $18 million in legal fees and $460,000 in protector fees plus $100,000 in protocol fees.

Waibel also alleges that Lujan would seek payment from the trust for various expenses without providing supporting documentation.

Additionally, he claims he was contracted to purchase on behalf of the trust, Lujan's interest in various investments and that Lujan was paid a total of $2.25 million for those investments.

A January 25, 2001 letter was also placed into the court file memorializing a phone conversation between Waibel and Lujan where the local attorney sought to borrow $1.5 million from the trust in order to invest in a real estate deal in Hawaii.  Waibel also submitted various invoices, including one where Lujan sought $150,000 from the trust to "keep a commitment" he made to the Rota senate delegation during the fight over Public Law 10-10 in the Hillbloom case. 

Documents submitted to the court on Lujan's letterhead, shows $50,000 went to the San Isidro Building Fund for installation of a roof, while $100,000 went to the Kologeio Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides scholarships to Rota students.

In a declaration filed in the California Hillbroom suit, Waibel states that in a deposition, he testified that Lujan told him, "That he used funds from the trust to bribe judges in order to secure favorable rulings in the probate and guardianship proceedings concerning Junior."

According to news files, many of Hillbroom's guardianship proceedings were held on Guam when he was a minor.

The defamation suit filed in May of last year was originally assigned to and heard by Superior Court Presiding Judge Alberto Lamorena.  According to Waibel's Guam attorney Pat Civille's declaration, once his client was deposed in Hawaii and his testimony was brought to Lamorena's attention in January of this year, the presiding judge recused himself from the case.

KUAM News attempted to find out why Lamorena did so, as Waibel's Guam lawyers moved for his disqualification from the case, but all of the documents related to their request were sealed.   The defamation suit has since been reassigned to five other judges in the Superior Court who have also recused themselves from the matter.

Calls to Presiding Judge Lamorena and an inquiry to the judiciary about whether officials were aware of the bribery allegations were not returned.

Meanwhile, the case is currently assigned to Judge Arthur Barcinas.  KUAM News also spoke to Attorney Lujan seeking comment on our story, but he declined to talk to us.

Judiciary Policy, Planning and Community Relations Director Maria Cenzon ells KUAM News that the Judiciary does not make comments on active cases between private litigants whether on Guam or any other jurisdictions.  She adds that having reviewed the declarations in our story, the island's court system sees no specific allegations of wrongdoing lodged against the presiding Judge Alberto Lamorena or any other members of the bench.

Cenzon says if there are any complaints of wrongdoing by any judicial officer, they should be reported to the Guam Bar Ethics Prosecutor, and that the Judiciary is not aware of any such complaint being filed against the presiding judge.

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