Ira Distenfield – who grew legal services franchise We the People into a national brand and sold it to Dollar Financial in a much-litigated transaction – was booked into a Los Angeles County jail March 16 on a five-day sentence for contempt of court, according to the county’s records.
Distenfield’s sentence stemmed from a legal dispute with Los Angeles attorney Richard Lubetzky. In a Los Angeles County Superior court civil case, Lubetzky won a judgment for about $115,000 for work he did for We the People before it was sold, court records show.
But Distenfield liquidated assets and transferred $459,000 to his own bank account instead of paying Lubetzky, according to court filings. A judge sentenced him to five days in jail on contempt of court charges Dec. 11, court records show.
Before taking Distenfield into custody, the judge gave Distenfield time to file an appeal or pay Lubetzky, which Distenfield didn’t do, court records show.
The judge then further stayed the sentencing because Distenfield and his wife filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy Jan. 14. The Summerland residents listed $515,000 in assets and more than $5 million in liabilities.
At the time, Distenfield told the Business Times he and his wife filed for bankruptcy because it became “financially prohibitive” to keep up the legal fight over We the People.
“After dealing with the litigation and related expenses for almost four years, we came to the decision that we needed to end that pain and move on,” Distenfield said.
On Jan. 21, the judge issued a bench warrant for Distenfield for March 16, and he was taken into custody that day, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department records.