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Lawyer Sentenced To 9 Months For Attempting To Extort $350K From Client's Former Employer

SANTA ANA ( — Authorities said Friday that an attorney was sentenced to nine months in jail for attempting to extort $350,000 from a client's former employer by threatening to publicly defame her with lies.

James Toledano, 70, Newport Beach was found guilty by a jury Nov. 26, 2014, of one felony count of conspiracy to commit a crime and one felony count of attempted extortion by threat.

Toledano was also sentenced to three years formal probation, search and seizure, must submit a DNA sample, pay a $1,000 restitution fine, and was ordered to have no contact with the victim or the co-defendant in this case.

Last month, Toledano's license to practice law in the state of California was also suspended. The California State Bar Association will determine whether the defendant's license will continue to be suspended or if he will be disbarred at a later date.

Co-defendant, and Toledano's client Michael Earl Roberts, 40, pleaded guilty on Oct. 27, 2014, to one felony count of conspiracy to commit a crime, one felony count of attempted extortion by threat, two misdemeanor counts of harassing phone calls, and two misdemeanor counts of annoying phone calls.

Roberts, a personal trainer, was sentenced to six months in jail, three years of formal probation and ordered to have no contact with the victim.

The DA said between 1995 and 2005, Roberts trained the victim and her husband. In 2005, his employment was terminated.

Between August 2006, and June 2008, Roberts made dozens of harassing and threatening phone calls to the victim and her friends indicating that he planned to make her life difficult. He left increasingly threatening and harassing messages telling the victim, "You better hang onto something, because it's going to get bumpy," and that he was going to "destroy" her.

In May 2008, Toledano, acting on behalf of Roberts, met with the victim's attorney and indicated that Roberts wanted $350,000 in exchange for keeping quiet about information he claimed would hurt the victim's reputation. Roberts threatened to publicly humiliate the victim with a negative media campaign by planting false and damaging stories printed in the Orange County Register, the Los Angeles Times, Orange Coast Magazine and on television broadcasts.

The victim reported the attempted extortion to the Newport Beach Police Department, which investigated the case.

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