Lawyer's money train seems to be stopping

James Warner involved with controversial railroad

(from; inset photo: James Warner)
  • (from; inset photo: James Warner)

James Warner, the criminal defense attorney who yesterday pled guilty to stashing $100,000 in drug money for a client of his, has played a role in other allegedly fraudulent endeavors in San Diego County. Warner was not only the attorney for Carrizo Gorge Railway, the binational railroad that has made headlines in recent weeks, but for a short period of time served as the railway's chief executive officer as well.

In addition, Warner represented Charles McHaffie in a lawsuit filed by Gina Seau, the wife of the now-deceased football player, Junior Seau.

In her lawsuit, which has since been dismissed, Seau accused McHaffie of scamming her out of $2.5 million with promises of cash windfalls from the Carrizo Gorge Railway — McHaffie is currently involved in Carrizo Gorge Railway's offshoot, Pacific Imperial Railroad, now at the center of numerous allegations of fraud.

According to her lawsuit, McHaffie lured Seau, representing "himself to Seau as an experienced, professional, and reliable business investor as well as a friend and confidant and induced Seau to rely on his false representations as to the nature of the Carrizo Gorge Railway transaction." Seau responded by writing McHaffie a check for $500,000 and then taking a loan out on her house for an additional $2 million.

And while McHaffie allegedly did the leg work, it was his attorney and former chief executive officer for Carrizo Gorge, James Warner, that held on to the money. Seau's complaint claims she wired the $2 million directly to Warner's account. Seau was then told that Warner would represent her and "protect her interest with the matter until the loan was repaid."

That, however, never happened, and Seau eventually dismissed the lawsuit after settling with McHaffie.

McHaffie and Warner's ties are evident elsewhere. Warner represented McHaffie in a 2005 lawsuit filed by Mark Whillock. In that lawsuit, as reported by the Reader, McHaffie was said to have misrepresented his ownership in a downtown development known as UC Lofts. A judge recently granted Whillock a $1.5 million judgement. According to Whillock, that money has not yet been paid.

As reported yesterday, Warner is in a new jam.

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UPDATE: Since I wrote this Councilmember, and MTS board member, David Alvarez requested MTS to provide monthly updates on the Desert Line, in order to ensure no cases of fraud and progress is made. Around the same time, Congressman Duncan Hunter also wrote a letter to MTS with several additional questions regarding the railroad and its principals.-dH

Thanks, Dorian, good story. You can see the Hunter letter here

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