An heir of the founder of DHL Express claims his trust fund dwindled from $90 million to $12 million after his attorneys and trustee increased the attorneys' contingency fee to 56 percent without his approval. And he claims that the attorneys increased guardianship payments to his grandparents to "the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars" to keep them from protesting.
Junior Larry Hillbroom sued attorneys Barry Israel and Keith Waibel in U.S. District Court in the Northern Mariana Islands, Hagatna, Guam. Both lawyers were admitted to the California Bar; Israel lives in Santa Barbara and Waibel in Guam, according to the complaint.
Larry Hillblom, the co-founder and former owner of DHL Express, died in an airplane crash in May 1995, leaving behind four children and an estate worth about $550 million, according to the complaint.
Junior - whose name is listed as Hillbroom in the complaint, which refers to him throughout as Junior - was a pretermitted heir, living in poverty in the Republic of Palau at the time of his father's death.
He learned in mid-1995 that he was entitled to a portion of the estate. In the spring of 1997, Junior proved that Hillblom was his father through DNA testing, and was issued an heirship settlement entitling him to 15 percent of the estate.
Junior says he did not become aware that the defendants drained so much money from his trust until Nov. 10, 2006, when he met with an FBI agent in San Francisco. After that meeting, Junior says, he discovered for the first time that his "ultimate recovery after the attorneys deducted their inappropriate fees and unsubstantiated costs from his approximately $90 million settlement of the Hillblom probate case was only about $12 million."
Junior seeks special damages, forfeiture of attorney's fees, and restitution for legal malpractice and fraud. He is represented by Mark Hanson of Saipan.
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Lawyers Pulled a Fast One, DHL Heir Says