Guilty Plea Forces
Ex-judge To Resign
Chandler justice of the peace struck a plea deal Monday to trade his robes for
prison khakis, his punishment for selling bogus insurance policies to truck
J. Brian Lamb, 40,
faces up to three years behind bars under his guilty plea to federal charges of
conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud and wire fraud. The charges
carried terms of up to 15 years. The deal also requires him to resign from the
Though the brief court
appearance marked Lamb's first admission of guilt, he made no apologies and even
asked U.S. District Judge Stephen McNamee not to delay the scheduled
"My family has
suffered enough," Lamb told the judge. "I'd like it as soon as possible so
my children don't have to deal with this from their classmates."
Lamb, who has sat in judgment on the Chandler
Justice Court since 1995, admitted ripping off truck drivers from 1993 to 1998
by selling them bogus policies in the names of legitimate and fictitious
The ultimate victims were
drivers and passengers injured in accidents with truckers who bought the bogus
policies, including a paralyzed man and a badly burned man. Lamb paid some
small claims but ignored large claims, according to court records.
The plea was anticipated because Lamb's three
co-conspirators already had struck deals with federal prosecutors. Darin
Tarwarter, a close friend of Lamb and his family, and Laura Palacios had agreed
to testify against him.
accused of laundering the premiums he collected through Antigua. He
admitted on Monday that he cashed checks at a Phoenix market using a fictitious
name. Lamb then divvied up profits with Tarwarter, Palacios and Nelly
who has pleaded guilty to fraud in Canada. Authorities
charged Lamb with stealing $1.5 million, but he is taking responsibility for
restitution of $2.5 million to $5 million.
All additional funds seized from Lamb, including the proceeds from sale
of his spacious home near Chandler, will be distributed to victims.
Lamb was suspended after his February 1999
arrest, but had still been collecting his $75,000 to $80,000 yearly salary until
Monday's plea. "Until he's convicted, there's a presumption of innocence," said
Presiding Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Robert
"The Board of Supervisors had to suck it up and pay
two judges in the same precinct at the same time."
Pro Tem Judge Ron Johnson has been filling in
for Lamb since his arrest. A new judge to fill out the two years left on
Lamb's term will be appointed by the supervisors.
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