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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Sleazy and Colorful Side of Personal Injury Law

I know some really good personal injury trial lawyers in San Antonio, who never seem to get hired on the big personal injury cases in the Eagle Ford oil field. There are dozens of catastrophic injury and death cases every year. Could it be that runners are getting to the victims and channeling them to a few sleazy lawyers willing to pay cash up front, which, by the way, is a felony?

Here's a case on point from today's San Antonio Express:
Lawyers’ case runner ordered to stay in jail

A federal magistrate judge in San Antonio has ordered Elpidio “Pete” Gongora Jr., 46, detained pretrial because he is a flight risk.

"After he got a visit from the FBI and IRS in January, the so-called “case runner” kept soliciting cases for lawyers in San Antonio and spending clients’ settlement money on himself, the agent testified. And he expanded, forging relations with lawyers in Austin, Albuquerque, New Mexico and Little Rock, Arkansas, FBI agent Carol Mace said.
The hearing also gave a glimpse into the seedy world of personal injury practice — where chiropractors, body shops and others collude with lawyers to solicit clients. Solicitation by lawyers, directly or indirectly, is known as “baratry” and is illegal in Texas, but rarely prosecuted.

Gongora ran the San Antonio law offices of Ronald Ray Higgins, Charles “Ken” Harrell and Patrick E. Clarke.

He paid the lawyers a “flat fee” of $5,000 to $6,000 a month, and in exchange he was allowed to track down clients and settle cases on their behalf with no supervision, agent Mace testified. Some client names came from accident reports, tow truck drivers, insurance companies, a body shop Gongora owned and an entity he ran through relatives called Elite Rehabilitation Services, Mace said.

In other cases, Gongora bought lists of people involved in accidents from others for $1,400 to $1,500.

Gongora is charged with tax evasion and bankruptcy fraud stemming from what investigators believe was a series of thefts — adding up to more than $1 million — from proceeds collected as lawsuit settlements or earmarked for doctors and therapists who treated the plaintiffs involved. He allegedly lived a lavish lifestyle, spending money on exotic cars, high-end homes, $28,000 on Spurs tickets and $26,000 on his daughter’s quinceaƱera at the Club at Sonterra (which he allegedly disguised as expenses for an immigration seminar).

Help Wanted: Looking for Drivers
I had dinner with my wife in San Antonio at La Fonda Saturday night. In the parking lot across the street I saw some really classy cars decorated with dummies of accident victims:

I'm looking to hire good drivers for my new fleet of cars advertising my personal injury practice. 

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