[UPDATED with Conviction:] Michael Theodore Pines, Attorney Who Advised Rene Hector Zepeda to Break Into Foreclosured Newport Coast Home, Guilty

UPDATE, SEPT. 1, 6:03 P.M.: San Diego attorney Michael Theodore Pines was found guilty by a jury in Newport Beach today of attempting to illegally break into a foreclosed Newport Coast home.

Convicted of one misdemeanor count each of vandalism, attempted second degree burglary, the attempted unauthorized entry of a dwelling, and obstructing an officer, the 59-year-old faces a sentence ranging from probation up to three years in jail and up to $10,000 in fines at his Oct. 14 sentencing.

UPDATE, AUG. 30, 8:44 A.M.: San Diego attorney Michael Theodore Pines is scheduled to waltz into Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach this morning, but seeing as how his license to practice law was suspended, he won't be there on behalf of a client.

The 59-year-old's trial on charges of misdemeanor vandalism, burglary, unauthorized entry of a dwelling and resisting and obstructing an officer is scheduled to begin.

He's the attorney who advised 72-year-old Rene Hector Zepeda to break into his foreclosed Newport Coast home in October 2010--inviting the media and Newport Beach cops to witness the spectacle.

Pines, like one of those "experts" who advises you not to pay your income taxes, told Zepeda to ignore officers' warnings and reclaim his abode at 19 Coral Cay because the foreclosure process is "illegal." Both were arrested after Zepeda broke into the home.

On Monday, Zepeda pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of trespassing. He was ordered to pay $435 in restitution and to testify truthfully at the trial for Pines, who is now looking at up to a year in jail and $10,000 in fines if convicted.

Despite having his license suspended in May 2011, Pines is representing himself in court this morning. He is also faces criminal charges in separate cases in Ventura and San Diego counties.

UPDATE, MAY 31, 2:40 P.M.: San Diego attorney Michael T. Pines, who advised a 72-year-old client to break into a Newport Coast home he had been foreclosed out of--and invited the media and the bank trustee to watch the spectacle-- faces charges that could have him spending a year behind bars.

The same counts and possible sentence face the former homeowner, who joined Pines in surrendering to the court on arrest warrants this morning.

Pines, 59, and Rene Hector Zepeda of Newport Beach face one misdemeanor count each of vandalism, second degree burglary, and the unauthorized entry of a dwelling. Pines faces an additional misdemeanor count for resisting and obstructing an officer.

Besides jail time, each defendant could be slapped with up to $10,000 in fines.

Zepeda lost his home at 19 Coral Cay, Newport Coast, to foreclosure in July 2009.

"Without making any attempt to undo the foreclosure or file any case to prove the foreclosure was defective, Pines is accused of incorrectly advising Zepeda that the foreclosure was illegal," reads a statement from the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA). "Pines is accused of instructing Zepeda to break in and physically repossess the home. 

"Pines is accused of then contacting the media and a real estate agent hired by the bank as trustee for the foreclosed home and informing them that Pines and Zepeda would be taking possession of the home on Oct. 13, 2010. The agent contacted the Newport Beach Police Department (NBPD), who investigated this case."

Pines, Zepeda and a locksmith arrived at the home that day, as did Newport Beach cops, who advised the trio they would be arrested if they illegally entered the property. With reporters watching, Pines told Zepeda to ignore the officers' warning and break into the home. Zepeda then broke a window to gain entry before he and Pines were arrested, cited and released.

Pines, whose license to practice law was suspended earlier this month, also faces criminal charges in separate cases in Ventura and San Diego counties.


My colleague

R. Scott Moxley

in November shared the story of

"The Real Squatters of OC,"

a couple who moved into a foreclosed, gate-guarded Newport Coast home without permission. The Duncans worked through a Newport Beach attorney to stay inside as long as they could--before eventually getting arrested, as

an update

to that cover feature disclosed.

Now, a different attorney is facing disbarment proceedings for advising clients to break into foreclosed homes and start living there again, including a 72-year-old man who was arrested in October after using a hammer to smash a window of his former five-bedroom, 4,400-square-foot home in Crystal Cove.

Metropolitan News Service has the scoop.

Attorney Michael T. Pines, 59, of Carlsbad, "has shown complete disrespect for the law, the courts and especially the best interests of his clients," which necessitates his removal from active practice, according to the State Bar's Chief Trial Counsel James Towery.

Pines has maintained foreclosures are illegal, so his clients have a right to repossession since they are still the legal owners of the homes. But, after reviewing their cases, the bar's Deputy Trial Counsel Brooke Schafer concluded Pines' clients in Corona del Mar, Carlsbad and Simi Valley did not have a legal right to move back into their foreclosed homes.

"He is harming both his clients and the public by advising clients to take the law into their own hands, and he uses his law license as a weapon," Schafer wrote in documents supporting disbarment. "By his behavior, actions and freely offered statements, he is a clear--and ongoing--danger both to his clients and to the public."

Pines gave police warning of what his client was about to do outside the Crystal Cove abode before spending five hours keeping "approximately seven police officers and an assistant city attorney wrapped up in his media circus," Schafer added.

The attorney was cited for contempt as well as criminally cited three times in less than a week, according to the bar.

This is, of course, unfamiliar territory for the State Bar, which generally protects its own. But in this instance, just think of how many of its attorneys own properties and represent those doing the foreclosing.


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