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Robert Irving Slater was admitted to practice law in California since 1975. He was a solo practitioner who had handled workers’ compensation cases since at least the late 1990’s.

USA Photocopy, located in Santa Ana, provided attorney services, including photocopying and sending subpoenas for records for workers’ compensation cases. The company would then bill insurance carriers for its services. During the relevant time period, Edgar Gonzalez was the owner of USA Photocopy and Enrique Villagomez was the manager.

Peter Ayala worked as a “legal investigator performing intake services.” He learned that Villagomez had work in the form of “sign-up services available,” and subsequently had a meeting with Gonzalez and Villagomez at the USA Photocopy office. During the course of the conversation, it was brought up that Ayala would be working directly for one attorney – Robert Irving Slater. After working out a payment structure with Gonzalez and Villagomez, all three of them went to Slater’s office and met with him.

Ayala’s role was to meet with the potential “workers’ compensation client to fill out the intake retainer . . . and also get the retainer signed for the claim.” Ayala would also have the client, with his assistance, complete various forms, including the workers’ compensation appeals board application for adjudication, medical release forms, and fee disclosure forms, among others. With regard to copy services, there was a form signed by clients giving USA Photocopy permission to perform copy services “and the medical release forms as well.” Ayala would return the forms to Slater’s office in digital form, and returned the originals in person approximately every two weeks.

Ayala was told to send an invoice for his services every two weeks to USA Photocopy, which paid him for his services. Ayala had done similar work in the past for approximately 13 attorneys, and this was the first time he would be paid by a party other than an attorney.

Ayala was paid by USA Photocopy as an independent contractor. Between September 2012 and September 2015, Ayala invoiced a total of $196,280.00 to USA Photocopy. Over the six years his relationship with USA Photocopy and defendant lasted, Ayala estimated he performed intake services for about 2,000 clients for defendant, and USA Photocopy was the only copy service used for those clients. Ayala did not perform any service for USA Photocopy other than the services he performed for Slater.

Slater was charged with conspiracy (Pen. Code, § 182, subd. (a)(1), Lab. Code, § 32151 (count 1)); submitting a false and fraudulent claim (Pen. Code, § 549 (count 2)); and 21 counts of insurance fraud based on concealing or failing to disclose information that affects a person’s right to an insurance benefit (Pen. Code, § 550, subd. (b)(3) (counts 3-23)). The complaint also alleged that Slater had engaged in a pattern of related fraudulent conduct involving the taking of more than $100,000.00. A jury convicted Slater on all 23 counts, and also found the enhancement regarding the pattern of fraudulent conduct true.

The court sentenced Slater to serve a total of 183 days, with 182 of those days suspended on the successful completion of two years of supervised probation. Six months of the probation term was to be served with an ankle bracelet. The court also ordered him to pay $356,175.24 in victim restitution in addition to statutory fines and fees.

Slater appealed his conviction. The court of appeal affirmed the trial court in the unpublished case of People v Slater -G061331 (July 2023)

Slater’s sole contention on appeal is that he did not possess the requisite state of mind to violate Labor Code section 3215, which was an element of each of the crimes of which he was convicted with the exception of count 2, submitting a false and fraudulent claim under Penal Code section 549.

Section 3215 states: “Except as otherwise permitted by law, any person acting individually or through his or her employees or agents, who offers, delivers, receives, or accepts any rebate, refund, commission, preference, patronage, dividend, discount or other consideration, whether in the form of money or otherwise, as compensation or inducement for referring clients or patients to perform or obtain services or benefits pursuant to this division, is guilty of a crime.

In reviewing his opening brief on appeal, the Court noted that he “included nothing that could possibly be interpreted as an even-handed account of the evidence presented. This violates rules 8.204(a)(2)(C) and 8.360(a) of the California Rules of Court.”

“It also violates the principles set forth in Sanghera, supra, 139 Cal.App.4th 1567: ‘Perhaps the most fundamental rule of appellate law is that the judgment challenged on appeal is presumed correct, and it is the appellant’s burden to affirmatively demonstrate error.’ “

The Court went to to say “How does a defendant make such a showing? Perhaps the best way to understand that point is to understand how a defendant does not make such a showing. He does not show the evidence is insufficient by citing only his own evidence, or by arguing about what evidence is not in the record, or by portraying the evidence that is in the record in the light most favorable to himself.”

After the Court of Appeal sad that “Defendant failed these requirements rather spectacularly” it concluded by finding “Even if defendant had adequately briefed this appeal, our own review of the record demonstrates substantial evidence to uphold the verdicts.