Malibu attorney charged with grand theft

Malibu attorney and resident Sam Birenbaum was arrested by Los Angeles County sheriffs on Friday at his residence on Malibu Road. He is charged with grand theft. Neighbors reported he was taken away in handcuffs.

The 52 year-old attorney, a former candidate for Malibu City Council, has long been a community political activist. About a week ago he was seen picketing outside a real estate office in Malibu, carrying a sign that accused a local realtor of being a racist.

Birenbaum, a member of the California State Bar since 1974, is accused of grand theft of his clients’ funds. Charges were filed on Thursday by the District Attorney. The California State Bar had initiated the investigation when clients of Birenbaum complained, according to Deputy District Attorney William Penzin.

A published account in the Los Angeles Daily Journal, a legal newspaper, reported that in one case, Birenbaum allegedly placed $100,000 of a client’s 1999 divorce settlement in his client trust fund, despite her instructions to deposit the money with a brokerage firm, according to Penzin. Penzin also said that Birenbaum used half the money to pay off other clients, and put the remaining amount in a money order made payable to himself.

According to Penzin, if found guilty of the crimes, which are felonies, he could go to prison for up to 4 years and 8 months, and he could be suspended from the state bar.

Birenbaum was in court Tuesday afternoon and posted $115,000 bail, said Tom Layton, a State Bar investigator who assisted in the investigation. The case was continued for three weeks.


“He will be arraigned again on Sept. 24 because the defense attorney who was there today was not certain that he would handle the case,” said Layton.

Layton also said that after a complaint was received by the California State Bar, the case was turned over to the L.A. County District Attorney and the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station. Further investigation discovered another possible victim.

Layton indicated they investigate fully to see if there is any violation of the State Bar rules for the practice of law, and that the State Bar is obligated by law to inform the District Attorney when they discover possible criminal activity. The State Bar will continue to monitor the criminal case and could decide to take a separate action against Birenbaum’s license to practice law.

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

Related Articles

- Advertisement - spot_img


Latest Articles

%d bloggers like this: