Final Lambert Killer Sentenced

Craig McCarthy pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter of Clifford Lambert

POSTED: 11:12 AM PST Jan 25, 2013    UPDATED: 02:33 PM PST Jan 25, 2013 
INDIO, Calif. -

A Daly City man who pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the financially motivated killing of a 74-year-old Palm Springs retiree was sentenced Friday in an Indio courtroom. 

Craig Anthony McCarthy, a 33-year-old former U.S. Marine, will now serve 25 years and 4 months in prison for the crime.  Judge Downing issued the sentence after a short delay in court, due to transportation issues that caused McCarthy to be late for his own sentencing.

McCarthy also admitted to charges of robbery, carjacking, burglary, assault with a deadly weapon, grand theft, accessory to a murder, attempted murder and conspiracy to commit identity theft in the Dec. 5, 2008, stabbing death of Clifford Lambert. He entered the pleas in August 2010.

McCarthy was the last of six people charged in connection with Lambert's case to be sentenced.  Bay Area men Kaushal Niroula and Daniel Carlos Garcia were convicted of murder and other charges last September and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

David Replogle, a San Francisco attorney, and McCarthy's roommate, Miguel Bustamante, were convicted in January 2011 of first-degree murder and eight other felony counts, and both were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.  San Francisco art dealer Russell Manning pleaded guilty to fraud-related charges in the case in 2010 and was sentenced to five years in prison.

Deputy District Attorney Lisa DiMaria said during Garcia and Niroula's trial that Garcia met Lambert online the spring before he died, and Lambert paid for Garcia to travel from Northern California to see him. Garcia's visit didn't go well and he left earlier than planned, charging Lambert's credit card when he upgraded his plane ticket to first class, the prosecutor said. Text messages from Garcia's phone showed he had contact information for Replogle, who had represented him at one point and became a friend, and Bustamante, a student and bartender in the Bay Area. McCarthy was also dragged into the conspiracy, DiMaria said.  She said Garcia sent Lambert's address and phone number to Niroula, and on Dec. 1, Replogle and Niroula flew to Burbank and drove to Palm Springs. The next day, Niroula posed as an attorney representing a wealthy New York family that had left Lambert money or valuable artwork in a will, the prosecutor said.

On Dec. 5, Niroula was at Lambert's home, and at some point he let McCarthy and Bustamante into the house, the prosecutor said. McCarthy grabbed Lambert and held him at knifepoint in the kitchen, and Bustamante stabbed Lambert to death, DiMaria told jurors.  She said Niroula brought bedding into the kitchen so they could wrap up the body, while Bustamante and McCarthy cleaned up the blood.

They put Lambert's body into the trunk of his own Mercedes-Benz, and Bustamante and McCarthy buried Lambert in the desert the next day, according to the prosecutor. They drove the car to the Bay Area, and Garcia started using Lambert's debit card to withdraw money the same day, she said.

On Dec. 10, Niroula opened a Wells Fargo account with Replogle's information, according to DiMaria. The next day, Replogle, posing as Lambert,gave art dealer Manning power of attorney over Lambert's accounts, and Manning - accompanied by Niroula -- wired $185,000 from Lambert's Palm Springs bank account to the newly opened Wells Fargo account, according to the prosecution.

On Dec. 12, Replogle -- again posing as Lambert and accompanied by Niroula -- met with a notary and forged four power of attorney documents, including a durable power of attorney that gave Manning power of attorney over Lambert's entire estate, DiMaria said. The same day, Niroula transferred $30,000 into Bustamante's account and Manning wrote a check to Replogle for more than $15,000, closing out Lambert's account, she said.