As a young boy in Cuba, Juan Dominguez often got in fistfights behind a hardware store near his elementary school. One brawl even left a scar on his right arm.

Because of those childhood scraps, Dominguez adopted a fighter’s mentality. It served the lawyer well in his battle with Dole Food Co. Inc., one of L.A.’s largest businesses.

His case became a high-profile scrap and took a somewhat bizarre turn or two over the last couple of years. After all, Dominguez was able to get a court to order Dole to pay millions of dollars in damages, but all that was reversed after Dominguez was accused of committing a massive fraud in 2009. He even faced possible state disbarment. What’s more, a Swedish documentary film named “Bananas!” that glorified Dominguez and his fight with the food giant came out just as the fraud allegations were revealed.

Dominguez – known for his many “Accidentes” ads plastered on the back of L.A. buses – receded for a time. But a possible federal investigation of him is quiet, and the California State Bar sent him a letter several months ago saying it was taking no action against him. As a result, he said he’s getting back to normal. Dominguez recently resumed his familiar bus ad campaign, and he sat for a long interview with the Business Journal to recount events of recent years.

“This is all so ridiculous, so absurd,” he said of his travails, while sitting in his office on the top floor of a 22-story high-rise on Wilshire Boulevard in Koreatown. He said federal investigators never contacted him about misconduct allegations and that the State Bar’s inaction proves his innocence.

Dominguez initially was reluctant to discuss the details of the case, but relaxed a bit and talked for three hours with the Business Journal. Still, he would not allow a photographer to take his picture because he believed it would seem like his endorsement of whatever was published.

The accusations stir up strong emotions in Dominguez, who hasn’t lost his Cuban accent even after living more than 40 years in the United States. At some points, the 54-year-old attorney was on the verge of tears. Other times, he’d raise his voice in anger.

He accused Dole of fabricating the fraud allegations against him. He said the judge who presided over the cases mishandled the matter. And he believes the U.S. media failed to thoroughly investigate the claims against him.


For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.