The court-appointed defense counsel for Gold Country Lenders CEO Phil Lester, whose high-profile fraud case is set to go to trial in September, has been replaced after he resigned from all of his cases effective Monday.
Former Nevada County Deputy District Attorney Ken Tribby was relieved as counsel for Lester Thursday, and Nevada County Superior Court Judge Candace Heidelberger appointed El Dorado Hills attorney Mary Beth Acton to replace him.
The substitution of counsel this late in the proceedings likely means another delay in a case that has been steeped in controversy since Lester was initially arrested in September 2012. Lester and Gold Country Lenders’ Chief Financial Officer, Susan Laferte, were indicted in mid-January by a criminal grand jury for allegedly defrauding investors of millions of dollars over a period of eight years.
They face 61 counts each — one count of using a scheme to defraud, 50 counts of offering securities for sale by means of an untrue statement or omission of a material fact and 10 counts of fraud from an elder adult. Their jury trial is currently set to start Sept. 17.
The complex case has been contentious from the get-go with accusations being aired by Tribby and Laferte’s attorney, Greg Klein, and with counter-charges being leveled by California Deputy Attorney General Maggy Krell. Heidelberger on several occasions requested better communication and cooperation among the parties.
On Monday, the judge denied a motion to dismiss charges, finding sufficient evidence was presented to the grand jury to support the indictment.
Tribby had not appeared in court all week, following a July 6 arrest in a domestic violence incident. He was booked into county jail on suspicion of spousal abuse and released on $750 bail. Nevada County District Attorney Cliff Newell said Friday he had not yet received the report from the sheriff’s office. According to Newell, after he reviews the case and makes a decision as to whether to file charges, because of his ties to Tribby, the case will then be forwarded to the attorney general’s office for review.
Krell said Friday morning she did not know what impact the substitution will have on the Gold Country Lenders case.
“Right now, it’s set for trial,” she said. “I have no reason to assume otherwise.”
Krell noted any motion to continue, or delay, the trial date would have to be filed by defense counsel, adding. “The ball’s in their court.”
Klein did not return calls for comment Friday afternoon.
But Acton — who said she has not seen any of the discovery yet — said there would be “no way” she would be ready to mount a competent defense by mid-September.
“Its not reasonable,” she said, “There probably will be a motion to continue.”
The next court date currently is set for Aug. 16.
Acton said she has not taken any trials to court in Nevada County. She has served as defense counsel for a number of high-profile cases in Placer County, however, including that of cop killer David Allan Virgo and that of Veronica Martinez Salcedo, a Roseville nanny charged with murder in the shaking death of 15-month-old Hannah Rose Juceam in May 2006.
To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4229.