Long-Time Phoenix Attorney Joe Romley Still Practices Despite Scandalous Involvement in Shady Cases – Civil Case Fraud RICO and Arrested in Sex Scandal with Ties to Crime Family
The legal profession expects a great deal of effort to create a persona of ethical respectability for the individual attorney. Unfortunately, this whole fallacy is based on smoke and mirrors. As this website documents, there are THOUSANDS of unethical attorneys that are daily threatening the public with their repeated malfeasance. In Arizona, such an attorney is Joe M. Romley of Phoenix who has practiced law for 52 YEARS (September, 1965). Far too many lawyers simply know no decency. When you pull back the curtain of deception, attorney Joe M. Romley has quite the shameful career history, just a few specific examples that are documented:
Attorney Romley named in Civil Suits as a Defendant by a few parties:
Plaintiff James P. Elia alleged FRAUD in Arizona case no. CV1992-015891with Attorney Romley listed as a Defendant.
Plaintiff Steven J. Valentine sues in civil lawsuit in Arizona case no. CV2002-017008 against both Attorney Romley and his wife Toni Romley.
Plaintiff Linda Vela alleged a multitude of serious claims including FRAUD in Arizona case no. CV1999-001968 against Attorney Romley and his law Practice. The specifics associated with this case require further detail to understand the full scope of impropriety by attorney Romley. See below.
Some of Romley’s infamous criminal clients drew enough attention of law enforcement to exercise the very rare raid via search warrant upon a law office for Joe Romley associated with an investigation of active participation in a “massive money-laundering and racketeering operation.”
The criminal cases surrounding the topless-and-nude-club-empire of the notorious Aldabbagh crime family. Further details are provided to understand the sordid affair. See below.
THE LINDA VELA LAWSUIT:
The synopsis of the Vela lawsuit is she had been involved in a contentious divorce with her husband. It was alleged that her husband had conspired with a number of people in a complex scheme to hide millions of dollars from the marital estate. Vela filed a lawsuit seeking damages for against those who had participated in the conspiracy which included attorney Romley. In the middle of the trial, after very damaging evidence had been presented to the jury a settlement was offered by Romley and accepted. Some VERY interesting finding of facts had been ruled upon by the Court prior to the settlement. The full details of the FRAUD are not known as a condition of the settlement required the facts of Romley’s activities to be SEALED. However, we do know this much from the two different Court rulings:
#1: The Court conclude that Romley engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity as contemplated under A.R.S. § 13-2314.04 and that the acts of alleged racketeering were continuous or exhibited a threat of being continuous.
#2: There is both direct and circumstantial evidence that Romley knowingly engaged in this scheme and artifice to defraud Vela and conspired with the other attorney defendants or aided and abetted the other attorney defendants in their fraudulent scheme to aid and assist Valentine in defrauding Vela (for full disclosure – the full ruling is provided below).
JOE M ROMLEY ARRESTED IN SEX SCANAL
Romley’s ties and allegations swirled around Sex-Club family Aldabbagh involving “massive” money laundering and racketeering operation”:
It is important to note that attorney Romley’s ties with the Aldabbagh crime family were not limited to being the lawyer. The criminal investigation of Romley had been designated to go beyond just legal representation; they would involve determining active participation in the various criminal operations.
As reported by the Phoenix New Times:
LISTEN UP, LAWYERS
Amid the orgy of publicity last week following the made-for-television police raids of the Aldabbagh family's topless- and nude-club empire, the arrest of Phoenix attorney Joe Romley was barely a footnote.
But while time will tell if police have unearthed the massive money-laundering and racketeering operation they claim, Romley's arrest is already drawing incredulous reaction within the legal community. And some attorneys fear it is an outrageous scare tactic intended to warn lawyers off cases involving alleged crime leaders.
Romley, cousin of former Maricopa County Attorney Richard Romley, is a respected civil lawyer and longtime member of an established Phoenix firm, Robbins and Green. He was caught in the sweep of the so-called Aladdin" investigation because he did some legal work for Omar Aldabbagh, painted as a racketeering kingpin by investigators.
Exactly what crime Romley supposedly committed remains unknown. He was arrested on an open-ended charge of illegally conducting an enterprise and released. Police descended on his office with a search warrant and carted away his files and records relating to Aldabbagh.
No formal charges have been filed against him, however, or against any of the 37 others arrested in the raids.
Instead, Romley and the other defendants wait in limbo as investigators sift through thousands of seized documents and decide what charges to file against whom.
But simply by arresting Romley, his colleagues in the legal community fear, police and prosecutors have crossed a sacred line in trying to hold legitimate attorneys criminally accountable for the sins of their clients.
The issue of attorneys' being charged along with their clients has been simmering nationally for years. Increasingly, criminal defense attorneys claim, prosecutors are using racketeering statutes to go after lawyers in an effort to deprive alleged kingpins of legal counsel.
The practice, attorneys say, flies in the face of any defendant's right to counsel, and exposes attorneys to prosecution-or at least public embarrassment-for doing precisely what they are supposed to do: telling clients how to remain within the law.
It is the practice of prosecutors...to try to discourage professionals-lawyers, accountants, appraisers-from providing services to people they view as unsavory," says attorney Paul Eckstein of Brown and Bain, who has known Romley since high school. It's just firing one across the bow of all lawyers saying, `You better be careful, folks, because you're going to be arrested and your name is going to be besmirched.'"
Investigators say Romley's arrest was more than just a warning shot, but Lieutenant David Gonzales, who ramrodded the Arizona Department of Public Safety's nine-month investigation of the Aldabbagh enterprises, says he cannot comment on what criminal charges Romley may ultimately face. He was the attorney for Omar [Aldabbagh] and the charges will stem from his involvement as his attorney," Gonzales says.
Steve Tseffos, spokesman for Attorney General Grant Woods, whose office will prosecute the cases, also said he could not elaborate on what charges Romley might face, because investigators are still piecing together the evidence.
We have a lot of seized stuff," Tseffos says. Now you go through it and see if you have enough evidence to support a criminal case."
But if investigators still have to determine whether they have a case, why was Romley arrested, attorneys ask?
I found it somewhat strange to learn they arrested [Romley] and apparently had no intent of filing charges against him at the time," says Philip Robbins of Robbins and Green, the firm where Romley works.
Gonzalez says police had probable cause to arrest Romley and the others, even if the formal charges they may face have yet to be determined. There were numerous reasons why we did the arrests," Gonzales says. A lot of the suspects involved in this case were transient by nature. We wanted to ID all these people. We wanted to get them mugged and fingerprinted."
Investigators didn't think Romley was likely to blow town, Gonzales said, but we felt that if we were going to arrest Joe Blow the driver from Iraq, it would be discriminatory not to arrest Joe Romley, the big-time defense attorney."
So what did Romley do for Aldabbagh that warranted his arrest? Romley did not return repeated telephone calls, and his attorney, Steve Dichter, would not comment.
But Philip Robbins of Robbins and Green, where Romley has worked for 15 years, says Romley only helped Aldabbagh from time to time with routine legal work. This is supported by records at Maricopa County Superior Court, which indicate that Romley was not even Aldabbagh's primary civil attorney. In four cases in which Aldabbagh has been sued over the past few years, Romley was his attorney in only two of them.
Romley was not an officer or director of any of the myriad companies Aldabbagh set up to conduct his business, Robbins says. It was simply straight-up corporate-type work involving forming corporations and doing zoning work," Robbins says.
Work for Aldabbagh made up only a minuscule" part of Romley's duties at the firm, which include a range of corporate, divorce and civil work, Robbins says.
Both Robbins and Eckstein find it hard to believe that Romley crossed any legal lines in his dealings with Aldabbagh.
This is a guy who I would describe as an extremely hardworking, ethical, upright, decent guy," says Eckstein of Romley.
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When fallout from the case finally settles, Robbins says he does not believe investigators will find anything to prosecute Romley for. My guess is he probably isn't going to be charged," Robbins says.
But the taint of having been arrested along with Aldabbagh in a case that the Phoenix media immediately whipped into a sex empire" crackdown may have been all investigators wanted to accomplish, Eckstein says.
If you're going to read your name in the newspaper as being connected with someone, or be arrested in your office and have your office ransacked, that's a pretty good way to discourage competent legal counsel for people who may be living on the edge," Eckstein says.
Source: Phoenix New Times
Phoenix Attorney Joe Romley Being Investigated for Involvement with the Aldabbagh Sex-Club Family
The case of the sex-club empire of Paradise Valley resident Omar Aldabbagh and his family
A police investigation aimed at a family of Middle Eastern immigrants that lord over Phoenix's sex-club scene
Phoenix Attorney Joe Romley cousin of former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley was one of the four lawyers whose offices were searched. However, prosecutors say they considered Joe Romley a suspect in the case, and Department of Public Safety agents searched his office in that capacity, not necessarily as an attorney for the Aldabbaghs.
"Mr. Romley was the suspect in a crime, yet strong safeguards were taken by a judge and the police.
According to several people close to the case, Omar Aldabbagh's defense attorney, Mike Kimerer, was present during the search. Joe Romley hasn't been charged, though a state grand jury continues to investigate the well-publicized racketeering case.
Related story detailing the reported Adabbagh family business history:
Sex-club king may be back in business
PHOENIX – State prosecutors fear the owner of a string of nude and topless bars they thought they had run out of town is still doing business here.
A plea agreement with the state Attorney General’s Office called for Omar Aldabbagh, the primary target of a Arizona Department of Public Safety raid on 13 nude and topless establishments, to divest control of his sexually oriented businesses within 18 months.
He also was required to serve three years’ probation and forfeit $366,000 worth of assets.
But since a plea agreement hearing where he told court officials he intended to operate a limousine or car-rental business in Las Vegas, Aldabbagh reportedly has quietly continued to negotiate transactions with his brother-in-law, Gregory Welling.
Aldabbagh, who continues to live in his opulent Paradise Valley home, also continues as a landlord for at least two clubs. And, he’s laying plans to continue to collect rent from another of his topless bars.
After learning last week of Welling’s plans to buy the club, officials at the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control were concerned that Aldabbagh was in business again.
In the earlier case, Aldabbagh and a close associate were accused of using shell corporations and hidden ownerships to confuse regulators and police about their interests in the chain of clubs.
“There’s no hidden ownership,’ Welling said. “If we were trying to hide something, would we actually write a letter to the Liquor Board and to the attorney general and say, `Look, this is it. We have a relationship, but we’re trying to do a business deal.’ ‘
In May, the Liquor Department approved Welling’s application for a liquor license to operate My Place, a soon-to-be opened bar in west Phoenix next door to Eve’s Tease, a nude bar formerly operated by Aldabbagh and now leased by Welling.
State Liquor Director Howard Adams said the application apparently slipped through the system.
Adams said he will begin an investigation into Aldabbagh’s financial and other relationships to Welling and the two bars, My Place and the Body Shoppe.
In the earlier case, Aldabbagh and a close associate were accused of using shell corporations and hidden ownerships to confuse regulators and police about their interests in the chain of clubs.
Source: Tucson Citizen
Investigators say Romley's arrest was more than just a warning shot, but Lieutenant David Gonzales, who ramrodded the Arizona Department of Public Safety's nine-month investigation of the Aldabbagh enterprises, says he cannot comment on what criminal charges Romley may ultimately face. He was the attorney for Omar Aldabbagh and the charges will stem from his involvement as his attorney," Gonzales says.
THE FULL RULING BY THE CIVIL COURT IN THE LINDA VELA VS. JOE ROMLEY LAWSUITS:
The Court having taken Defendant, Joe Romley's ("Romley") Motion for Partial Summary Judgment under advisement; having reviewed the memoranda of the parties and legal authorities cited therein; having considered the oral argument of counsel; and good cause appearing,
IT IS ORDERED granting said motion with respect to Count XXIV of the Complaint, the Arizona Racketeering Act ("AZRAC") claim for relief, the Court finding that the Plaintiff has failedto present competent evidence upon which a reasonable juror could conclude that Romley engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity as contemplated under A.R.S. § 13-2314.04 and that the acts of alleged racketeering were continuous or exhibited a threat of being continuous.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED denying Romley's motion with respect to all other claims for relief asserted against him in Counts XXII through XXVII of the Second Amended Complaint, the Court finding that there are genuine issues of material fact which preclude the granting of summary judgment on each of these claims. The Court, in reaching its decision finds that there is an abundance of evidence and a prior court determination that Steve Valentine ("Valentine"), without question, engaged in a scheme together with his mother, Sue Valentine, to defraud the Plaintiff, Linda Vela ("Vela"), Valentine's former wife, during the course of the Valentine divorce. There is also little question that to accomplish his fraudulent activity, Valentine relied heavily upon his accountant and attorneys. There are serious questions as to whether his accountant and attorneys knew or reasonably should have known that he was using their services for purposes of defrauding the Plaintiff. However, based upon the suspect testimony of Valentine and the testimony of Defendant, Jerry Angle ("Angle"), coupled with an abundance of circumstantial evidence which is subject to multiple interpretation, there are genuine issues of material fact which preclude judgment on all but Count XXIV of the claims asserted against Romley. There is competent, admissible evidence to suggest that there was a scheme or artifice to defraud Linda Vela and deprive her of her share of the marital estate, which was made possible through the knowing efforts of Romley and Angle. This Court does not believe that there is competent evidence to suggest that Romley knew at the time Valentine and Vela entered into their settlement agreement pursuant to Rule 80(d), Ariz.R.Civ.P., that Valentine did not intend to fulfill his obligations under the settlement agreement. There is however evidence that he, through various alleged communications with Angle, Defendant Quinn Williams ("Williams"), Defendant Judith Wolf ("Wolf") and Valentine became aware of Valentine's intent to renege or not participate in good faith in the settlement agreement, and then subsequently lent aid to him in the fraudulent transfer and/or encumbering of marital assets. There is both direct and circumstantial evidence that Romley knowingly engaged in this scheme and artifice to defraud Vela and conspired with the other attorney defendants or aided and abetted the other attorney defendants in their fraudulent scheme to aid and assist Valentine in defrauding Vela. While Counts XXV, XXVI and XVII may be duplicative of the allegations set forth in the fraud claim, Count XXIV, the Court, at this time, is not prepared to strike them. The Court will reserve judgment on this issue until the time that Plaintiff has rested her case. The Court, in allowing the conspiracy claim, Count XXV to remain, is not determining this juncture that there is adequate evidence to sustain liability on a joint rather than several basis.
Arizona still recognizes that there can be a civil conspiracy to perpetrate a fraud. However, unless there is ample evidence to demonstrate that a person has acted in concert with another under the dictates of A.R.S. § 12-2506(F)(1), liability between co-conspirators is several, not joint. While there are genuine issues of material fact which preclude summary judgment on the acting in concert issue in this case, the evidence in support of Plaintiff's claim that Romley acted in concert with the other attorney defendants in this case is tenuous at best. A conspiracy can involve an express or tacit agreement, and from a criminal perspective, does not require any overt act to be committed in furtherance thereof. To act in concert within the meaning of A.R.S. § 12-2506(F)(1) for purposes of holding tort feasors jointly liable, one must enter into a "conscious agreement to pursue a common plan or design to commit an intentional tort and actively taking part in that intentional tort." A.R.S. § 2506(F)(1) further states that "[a] person's conduct which provides substantial assistance to one committing an intentional tort does not constitute acting in concert if the person has not consciously agreed with the other to commit the intentional tort." One could well engage in a civil conspiracy without entering into a conscious agreement to pursue a common plan or design to commit an intentional tort and without actively taking part in the commission of an intentional tort. While it will be difficult for the Plaintiff to sustain her burden of proof regarding her conspiracy claims, it will be even more difficult to sustain her burden for purposes of establishing that any of the Defendants acted in concert within the purview of the Arizona statute.
Attorney Joe Romley has quite the online reputation continues to get bad online reviews and has been accused of not returning monies and not providing services as promised. (Source AVVO)
One would hope, and be generally inclined to believe, “experience” would represent a positive qualification for someone in the legal profession. Unfortunately, the reality consistently demonstrates the polar opposite. As in the case of attorney Joe Romely who has been an Arizona licensed attorney with over 50 YEARS experience (admitted during the President Lyndon Johnson administration – wow) has only served to develop the means to circumvent the Rules of Professional Conduct with unethical violations to the public's detriment. Furthermore, with a review of how the judicial system actually operates in real time - real world it seems that rogue lawyers are protected from any significant accountability. Attorney Romley’s portfolio includes multiple fraud claims by a number of private citizens and has even included criminal investigations for his association with a sex enterprise crime family. His law offices were raided by law enforcement, not something that happens often with ethical law firms to say the least. It has been surmised the facts associated with the criminal associations were conveniently “washed away” due to a direct family relation of being the first cousin to the local District Attorney (a fact).
In conclusion, after studying the sordid history of attorney Romley's legal career one is left with the unavoidable question – how in the world does this happen? What is the public to do to protect themselves if faced with the always anxious possibility of dealing with a judicial system infested with unsavory characters cloaked in the illusion of credibility of being a licensed attorney with lots of EXPERIENCE? The uncomfortable truth, CROSS YOUR FINGERS you do not retain a lawyer of the Joe Romley ilk.
We will be following up on the Attorney Joe Romley story in the near future. Please check back for updates.