San Diego attorney once hailed as rising star accused of stealing settlement money from clients – NBC 7 San Diego

In 2021, San Diego Magazine named her a Woman of the Year Rising Star. Two years later, Kelly Duford Williams is a fugitive with US Marshals on her trail.

The California Bar Association revoked Williams’ license to practice in the state, and a warrant has been filed for grand theft in San Diego County.

Her fall from grace may seem swift, but complaints of Williams’ misconduct have been circulating for at least two years.

A friend referred Kia Vaara to Williams’ firm, Slate Law Group, when she needed to hire an attorney.

“She definitely advocated for me and she made me feel like I was in good hands,”[ads1]; Vaara said, adding that Williams proudly boasted that she was “firmly female-empowered. “She wanted to help her fellow woman, and I was single. mother and she believed me and I believed her.”

Williams won a $48,000 settlement for Vaara who recalled the day they went to the courthouse. Williams was wearing shoes that caught Vaara’s eye. Williams thanked her and then, “She promised me a pair of Prada heels and I still haven’t gotten them,” Vaara said.

That’s not the only thing she didn’t get. Vaara never saw the settlement money.

“She assured me I would get my check within a week, 10 days. That’s when gaslighting began,” she said.

Vaara said Williams began making excuses, first that she sent the check to the wrong address, then that she misspelled Vaara’s name. The check Williams said was in the mail never arrived.

After two months, Vaara realized she was never going to get her settlement money, so she began posting negative reviews on social media and filed a formal complaint with the California Bar Association.

Vaara is not alone. Documents show another woman reported that Williams also kept her settlement money.

The Bar Association found a total of 16 counts of misconduct against Williams, including misappropriating funds, making false reports to police while using a false name, claiming to be an assistant district attorney and sending an employee to court to pose as an attorney.

Williams maintains that she has done nothing wrong.

The hearing officer found Williams guilty of all 16 counts, said Chief Attorney George Cardona, who added that the statement shows that Williams was not credible and “that she lied to the court about certain facts during the trial.”

Vaara testified against Williams during the hearing. She was thrilled to learn that Williams had lost his license to practice law in California.

“I feel like I got my little piece of justice and I took a really bad lawyer off the streets,” Vaara said.

But Williams is still out there. She closed her law practice and disappeared. Vaara says she has been following Williams on social media and knows where she is hiding from the grand theft warrant now on file with the San Diego County Sheriff.

If and when she is caught, Williams’ bail will be $25,000.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department told NBC 7 the case is now in the hands of the US Marshal’s Service. We reached out to them to find out if they are approaching Williams, but so far they have yet to respond.

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