Crime - Sacto 911

Ranchers swindled out of $400,000 settlement – by their own attorney, officials say

A Bay Area attorney is in trouble with State Bar of California officials who say he cheated his Yolo County clients of hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages after a wildfire near Zamora in 2006.

The ranchers William J. Reed, 74, of Danville, represented in the September 2006 blaze have yet to see a cent of the $400,000 settlement he won from Pacific Gas and Electric, say State Bar officials who slapped the attorney with nine counts of misconduct on Dec. 4 and placed a consumer alert on his State Bar attorney profile, State Bar officials announced Tuesday.

Reed has 20 days to respond to the charges.

Reed also faces felony charges connected to the alleged swindle. He was arraigned in April in Contra Costa Superior Court.

The ranchers lost property during the wildland blaze later found to have been caused by downed utility lines. State Bar officials say Reed drummed up business after the fire by holding town hall-style meetings offering to represent residents whose property was damaged in the blaze.

Darrell Smith: 916-321-1040, @dvaughnsmith