Monday, May 2, 2011

California Attorney Confesses Crime in Open Court--Judge Fails to Take Notice

Tim King & Michael Hjelmstad

The Probate Code strictly forbids specific commingling of funds.

(RIVERSIDE, Calif.) - In a hearing this week in Riverside Superior Court, a local attorney, Toni Eggebraaten, cited a criminal act committed by her in conjunction with her client, The Riverside Public Guardian's office, as a reason for not having to abide by the law mandating she reveal accountings to a beneficiary of a Trust. In a statement worthy of Franz Kafka's absurdist classic novel, The Trial, Eggebraaten baldly stated that she pooled the funds in the Phelan Family Trust with "other estates" managed by the Public Guardian's office as a reason for not supplying the bank statements to a beneficiary. The Probate Code strictly forbids such commingling of funds. The request for discovery was made by Janet Phelan, after she noted that Eggebraaten's accountings were not consonant with the minimal discovery that the attorney provided. Eggebraaten had supplied cancelled checks with payee, endorsement and bank cancellation information redacted (blacked out) but refused to submit the bank statements, which are necessary to reconcile the account. Phelan has stated that there appears to be fraud and possible embezzlement of funds. Eggebraaten has replied that since she pooled the Phelan Trust monies with other accounts, it would violate the privacy of those other estate beneficiaries receiving funds from the pooled account if she were to abide by discovery laws and turn these over to Janet Phelan. Phelan promptly informed the Judge, Thomas Cahraman, of the violation of law by Eggebraaten but Cahraman did not respond. Phelan had already issued subpoenas for the bank records, which were served on the financial institutions last week and states that a continuance is necessary due to the fact that there are active subpoenas. In 2009, Phelan, who is an investigative reporter, broke a story in the San Bernardino County Sentinel which stated that a number of Inland Empire judges had questionable financial transactions keyed to their home loans, and were possibly laundering bribes and pay-offs through these loans. At that time, Judge Cahraman was the Presiding Judge of Riverside County. Cahraman subsequently pulled three judges whose loan history was questioned off the Phelan Trust case, although he issued an angry and accusatory letter to Phelan, refusing to investigate the loans and citing Phelan as making things difficult in the court system.

When first contacted by, attorney Tony Eggebratten said, "I don't feel comfortable discussing the details of this trust with you..."

She went on to say, "The trust pays for the benefit of each a monthly stipend of $2500; if Janet told us to make a direct deposit into her account, we would. If you start with the beginning balance, we show every expense that we pay."

Eggebratten contends that her actions were reasonable and credible according to the law.

"Just do the math. Take the starting balance, documented income, subtract the expenses, it all comes out to the balance we have on hand."

Phelan responded, "Toni Eggebraaten's response failed to address the issues of illegally pooled accounts. Nor does it answer the questions raised by her attorney's time records, which indicate that she most likely has falsified the accountings."

Cahraman has taken the issue of the continuance under consideration and will be issuing a decision shortly. No action appears to have been taken on the violation of law by Toni Eggebraaten and the Public Guardian's office. To the knowledge of this reporter, this is the first time that an attorney has claimed that she is not bound by the law due to her committing a prior illegal act.


Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience in broadcast and Internet news. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with the U.S. Army and Marines.

Tim holds numerous awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), first place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Tim has several years of experience in network affiliate news TV stations, having worked as a reporter and photographer at NBC, ABC and FOX stations in Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. Tim is a member of the Orange County Press Club in Southern California, you can send Tim an email at this address:
Michael Hjelmstad and founder Tim King met in the Anbar province, at al Asad Marine Corps Air Station in Iraq, when Tim was covering Marine operations there during the summer of 2008. In addition to his work in Marine Corps Public Affairs, Michael has a highly diversified background in media. Mike works as the U.S. Motion Picture and Television Liaison for the Marine Corps, ensuring that movies portraying Marines do so with accuracy.

Mike is another Los Angeles native who shares a common past both as a U.S. Marine and as a journalist. We at sincerely appreciate Michael's valuable contributions and his highly developed skills in both writing, and press and sports photography. Email sent to our newsroom at, will be forwarded to Michael Hjelmstad.


Anonymous said...

laws were made to be broken, don't you know? It's only the slave class that bears the brunt of the laws, laws are for the benefit of those that make/enforce them! sadly we don't live in a nation of laws anymore.... Americans when will you wake up?

Janet Phelan said...

Thank you for your astute comment,Anonymous. This is why we write and write and write. How else to wake people up?

Anonymous said...

It seems the courts have forgotten that they existe serve the people and not to shower favors upon their own,lets not forget that most judges are attorneys before they are judges, this is a travesty and reflects badly upon the judicial system-this judge should recuse himself for showing favoritism

Anonymous said...

Should a judge do any act of misconduct, it can be reported to both the Bar association and the Judicial Commission, which will the review the data and investigate and determine a reprimand, if any at all.

Ray said...

The ethical standards for judges are called the Code of Judicial Conduct. They apply to all sitting judges. Canon 7 of the Code also applies to anyone seeking judicial office, such as in an election.

No. See the JQC's Complaint Form for instructions.

Anonymous said...

Janet in your case it would be:
How Do I File a Complaint?

Complaints must be in writing. You may use the Commission's COMPLAINT FORM or write a letter to the Commission. Electronic filing of complaints is not available; complaints must be submitted to the commission office:

455 Golden Gate Avenue, Suite 14400
San Francisco, California 94102

If your complaint is about a subordinate judicial officer (an attorney employed by the court to serve as a court commissioner or referee), your complaint must first be directed to the court in which the subordinate judicial officer sits.

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