By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
He's confident those experiences will serve him well at his nonprofit foundation.
"I know the legal structure," he says.
* * *
Orbach says he does not like to dwell on his dark days, but he believes it is important to put it all in proper context.
Despite coming from a distinguished family and having made millions upon millions for his bank clients, Orbach also had a wild side. In the early 2000s, he violated a family court's order, illegally fired a gun and was cruel to animals, the latter earning him jail time.
After he began dating a woman in 2006, loved ones around him told him they saw red flags, Orbach now says. That was confirmed by Shannon Parnell, Orbach's dear friend of 10 years.
Parnell and then-single Orbach met when they were living in the same Irvine complex, started seeing each other romantically, and were on and off after that. She went to visit Orbach in prison and put him up for about a month in her home when he needed a place to stay after his parole.
"We never argued," Parnell says of Orbach. "He was never a violent person. He was never yelling and screaming."
"Then he got with this woman."
According to the Weekly's earlier report, Orbach hit her with a pipe, punched her in the face, slashed the tires on her car, threw M-80 explosives on her roof, and sent her countless emails and messages.
He says the "M-80" was a Piccolo Pete he meant to throw in her back yard, but it landed on her roof, starting a small fire that a neighbor put out with a garden hose. That earned Orbach one of his two felony strikes, for arson. The other was for stalking.
"I shouldn't have done it," he says.
Around the time Orbach's personal life was in shambles, his business was imploding thanks to the global recession.
"I wish I could say I survived the recession," he says. "I think I had a nervous breakdown."
Many clients at Pacific Financial Advisors defaulted on their loans, making Orbach's company on the hook to investors and forcing him to sue some close friends and business associates. "It was a perfect storm," he recalls. "I spent seven years building a business, and through no fault of my own, it just vaporized."
He says he lost $10 million and his house. After being cut loose from the Seal Beach jail, he immediately contacted his ex-girlfriend. He got busted for felony stalking. That probation violation made him eligible to serve his complete prison sentence.
The arson count alone had him originally looking at up to seven years in state prison. Combined with all the other charges against him, the maximum sentence could have been 14 years. Prosecutors offered him five years if he'd plead guilty.
Orbach could not contemplate the offer in the relatively comfortable Seal Beach jail, but in Orange County's Central Jail, which he found "old and disgusting," and Theo Lacy Facility, which he called "brutal." Since he was accused of two felony strikes, he was kept with the "hardcore" inmates, who he said would look him over, puzzled, and ask, "What are you doing here?"
"The guards are insane," Orbach says of the county jailers. "The stress is incredible. There is always tension there—among the guards and the inmates. The food is terrible."
It was so bad that when his lawyer said he might be able to shave off some of those five years (really four years with time served) while Orbach stayed in county, the inmate instead took the prosecution offer because "I would rather go to prison for four years than spend another year in county."
Orbach would do his prison stretch at Chuckawalla Valley State Prison and the Jamestown Fire Camp. As at county, he'd be told by guards and prisoners he did not belong there. "I told them I deserved to be here," Orbach says. "I don't think I deserved that amount of time, but I deserved to be there. I could have kept myself out of it. It was a form of respect, too. I took ownership of it; I manned up. I would not stay in protective custody. I did not take the easy way out."
He learned to carry himself a certain way, roll with prison politics and keep from being drawn into one-on-one drama, although he discovered "when there is a riot, you are expected to join in."
Orbach read a lot and provided books and legal assistance to fellow inmates. He found many came from nothing and went back to nothing. All they wanted was a chance, especially a chance for a job.
That's when he hit upon the idea for his foundation.
* * *
The Medici family was at one time the richest family in Italy, collecting wealth in the Mugello region of the Tuscan countryside in the 13th century; gaining prominence as a political dynasty, banking family and royal house in the Republic of Florence during the late 14th century; and seeing Medici Bank rise to the largest in Europe during the 15th century. Cosimo de' Medici (1389-1464), who controlled the government in Florence despite no official title, used his family's wealth to support artists and sculptors and build churches and large libraries, which he filled with his own books. After his death, Cosimo was named Pater Palrige (father of his country).