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FORGED DECLARATION: Did Montebello Unified School District Attorney Commit Fraud on the Court?

 

Saturday March 2, 2019, 11:00 a.m.
BY BRIAN HEWS

Hews Media Group – Los Cerritos Community News has obtained documents indicating that William Shinoff, a San Diego-based attorney representing Montebello Unified School District in an injunction case, allegedly forged a key witness declaration to delay the impending trial and motion for attorney’s fees.

Former MUSD CBO Cleve Pell filed the lawsuit which seeks to stop all “wasteful” infrastructure bond monies being spent on district facilities.

If found to be true, Shinoff will have committed fraud on the court which is a felony under California Penal Code Section 132.

The move also violates sections of the California Business & Professions Code as well as the California Rules of Professional Conduct.

The declaration involves Dr. Mark Skvarna, the Fiscal Advisor at MUSD who works for and is represented by the Los Angeles County Office of Education in the case.

The alleged fraud started when Shinoff, partner in the law firm of Artiano-Shinoff, filed a motion on January 17 of this year to exclude Skvarna from testimony.

Oddly, just hours later, Shinoff called Pell’s attorney J. Anthony King saying that Skvarna was now an “essential witness” and was seeking a short delay in the trial because Skvarna’s wife was going to the hospital for back surgery.

Shinoff indicated he would be following up with a signed declaration by Skvarna attesting to his wife’s back surgery and the need for a delay.

One day later, Shinoff pushed King to accept the delay or he would file a motion in court on Jan 23.

Then King got a call from LACOE attorneys, which led King believe that Shinoff was involved in an unethical scheme to delay the trial

Contrary to Shinoff’s statement about the Skvarna declaration, LACOE asked King to confirm the Jan. 23 trial date and when Skvarna should show up at the courthouse.

Perplexed, King called Shinoff to inquire about the court date; he also asked for the Skvarna declaration.

Shinoff stated, “Dr. Skvarna has the declaration I am awaiting his signature,” then he hung up.

Just minutes later, in a blatant backtracking move, Shinoff emailed King saying, “I just got off the phone with Skvarna and said he had not told LACOE about his wife’s surgery.”

One day later, King received the declaration purported to be signed by Skvarna in Los Angeles, with a curious signature of “MMS” on the document.

Given the fact that Shinoff pretended to represent Skvarna and that the signature was questionable, King began investigating the validity of Skvarna’s signature.

What King found was shocking and strongly indicates that Shinoff committed fraud on the court.

King obtained a document from Baldwin Park School District that was signed by Skvarna, then-Superintendent of the district.

The signature on the Baldwin Park document was substantially different than the signature on Skvarna declaration.

 

 

 

SKAVARNA’S signature that was allegedly forged. Click here to see entire document.

 

 

SKAVARNA’S true signature on Baldwin Park document. Click here to see entire document.

 

 

 

Just days later, Skvarna was shown the declaration by Pell’s son, Charlie Pell, at a meeting in a coffee shop; Pell is attesting to the meeting in his own signed declaration.

Shockingly, Skvarna told Pell that it was the first time he had seen the document, confirmed that it was not his signature, and said that he never authorized anyone to sign it on his behalf.

When confronted with the evidence, Shinoff indicated that Skvarna had granted permission via email to sign the declaration.

However, when asked to produce copies of those emails Shinoff refused to do so.

HMG-LCCN contacted Shinoff for comment this past Thursday asking about the signature.

Shinoff first answered, “Dear Mr. Hews, you can be assured that Mr. Skvarna authorized the declaration be submitted on his behalf.”

Pressed further on why the signatures did not match, Shinoff wrote, “Mr. Skvarna was in the hospital attending to his wife.”

King asked the court to grant an evidentiary hearing to cross-examine both Shinoff and Skvarna on the matter, the hearing is pending.

This is not the first time Shinoff’s law firm has been accused of being unethical. In 2015, the San Ysidro School District filed a malpractice lawsuit, accusing partner Dan Shinoff of professional negligence for withholding a settlement agreement. The lawsuit alleged Shinoff avoided a settlement to fraudulently draw out the case and drive up legal fees. They ended up settling for over $1 million.

 

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