A San Diego attorney once deemed a local “woman of the year” is apparently on the lam after being hit with several felony charges for allegedly misappropriating hundreds of thousands of dollars from clients.
Kelly DuFord Williams, 36, was charged with a slew of crimes–including grand theft of personal property and forgery of checks, money orders, and travelers’ checks—after allegedly swindling more than $400,000 from at least eight legal clients, according to a criminal complaint obtained by The Daily Beast and filed in San Diego Superior Court. Williams was also hit with an aggravated white-collar crime enhancement.
The San Diego District Attorney’s Office declined to comment, noting that Williams has not been arraigned—and no date has yet been set. A March 20 warrant was filed for William’s arrest, but records from the San Diego Sheriff’s department show she is not in custody. The warrant indicates that when Williams is arrested, her bail will be set at $250,000.
“I would say she brought this all on herself,” Bryan Morgan, who worked as a paralegal at Slate Law Group, told The Daily Beast on Thursday. “Greed is a terrible thing to get trapped in and all the people she did dirty deserve justice knowing she could be eating cold soup in jail very soon.”
Prosecutors say that starting in 2020, Williams and her boutique law firm, Slate Law Group, were hired in various civil matters. After successfully securing settlements for her clients, Williams allegedly would deposit their checks into “her client trust account or business checking account,” and then “spent the money without giving the clients their full share.”
Fernando Roridguez, a former client of Williams’, told The Daily Beast earlier this month that the lawyer allegedly stole part of his $175,000 settlement from an unjust termination case. The complaint details Rodriguez’s case, noting that Williams only paid him $24,450. Court documents say he is still owed $15,550.
“It hurts my feelings that you work so hard, and you get screwed. And then you get a lawyer. And the lawyer screws me,” Rodriguez told The Daily Beast earlier this month. “It’s really ugly and it’s really sad.”
During the prosecution’s nine-month investigation into Williams, the complaint states, prosecutors also discovered that the lawyer “forged client signatures on settlement checks prior to depositing them.” The complaint notes that eight clients and several former Slate Law Firm employees were interviewed in the investigation.
The charges come weeks after the California State Bar Court recommended Williams be disbarred after finding evidence she misappropriated from clients and made at least two false 911 calls in Utah, where she allegedly posed as a district attorney concerned about the welfare of a child because she was angry at a former paramour.
The mother of three was also accused of allowing a lawyer who was not yet licensed to practice in California to appear in court.
Williams did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A self-described “girl boss,” Williams was named one of San Diego Magazine’s Women of the Year Rising Stars in 2021. But former employees and clients of her business, Slate Law Group, told The Daily Beast Williams was allegedly a “scary” and “chaotic” boss who used “feminism” as a cover.
“She was living her own Mean Girls life,” Morgan said earlier this month. “She always pretended she was the biggest, baddest of them all and she was only out for justice.”
Instead, Morgan says, Williams was padding billing documents, instructing the lawyers working for her to charge clients for extra hours.
Internal Slate Law group documents reviewed by The Daily Beast show Williams personally editing invoices submitted by her employees, crossing out their entries, and increasing the number of hours they worked. The documents show her changing billing rates so that clients would be charged her top hourly rate rather than that of junior colleagues.
A former boyfriend of Williams, Jesus Rogelio Huerta, described her love of shopping and luxury goods. He previously told The Daily Beast that Williams drove a Tesla and a Range Rover, and had a closet full of Christian Louboutin shoes, Prada, Givenchy, and “YSL bags everywhere.”
The couple began dating in early 2021, but Huerta said he became tired of William’s “weird lies,” claiming she would become “extremely intoxicated.” Things came to a head in April 2021, when Huerta organized a vacation in St.George, Utah, with some friends. Days before they were due to leave, the couple broke up, according to Huerta.
But while Huerta and his friends were driving to Workman, he received “120 texts and at least 30 missed calls” from Williams, who was furious not to have been invited.
Williams threatened to call the police on Huerta, according to text messages reviewed by The Daily Beast and included in the state bar court’s decision. In the early hours of the morning, Williams made two phone calls to the Hurricane City Police Department, claiming to be a person called “Amanda Mathis.” In the second call, she allegedly told police she was a “deputy district attorney in San Diego,” who was concerned about the welfare of a two-year-old child of one of Huerta’s friends, according to documents from the state bar.
Huerta and his friends were awakened at their AirBnb by police knocking on their door. When Huerta showed the officers the text message threats from Williams, he said they realized what had happened.
The Hurricane City Police Department completed a criminal complaint request form for Williams’ false report, but they could not arrest her because she lives out of state, according to an account in the state bar court decision.
The Utah 911 calls are not mentioned in the criminal complaint filed earlier this month—but prosecutors do note that 16 counts of misconduct that were established by the California State Bar also included “moral turpitude [and] providing false statements to law enforcement.”
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