Bloomberg Law reports that a California attorney is facing charges for felony offenses stemming from an alleged marketing scheme involving the well known Jacoby & Meyers firm.
The 26 count criminal complaint filed by Orange County prosecutors alleges that 45 year old Steven Omid Mehr, used an illegal referral system to send potential clients to Jacoby & Meyers and load them up with fees in the process. His website claims his firm was awarded “Best Attorneys of America” by Rues Rating Service.
Mehr also allegedly used the system to direct business to copying and printing services providers he controlled, bilking unsuspecting clients and worker compensation insurance companies.
The indictment accuses Mehr of purchasing usage rights from Jacoby & Meyers in a referral-for-compensation criminal conspiracy for his attorney marketing firm, Web Shark 360. The URL for webshard360.com redirects to the Mehr website.
Mehr, has been a licensed attorney in California since 2005. Bloomberg Law reports that he described himself as “chairman of the Law Office of Jacoby & Meyers California operations” in a 2015 interview with an online legal industry publication. He purchased the L.A. Weekly in 2017 with other investors.
The indictment outlines a five-year conspiracy from 2011 to 2016 that allegedly involved Mehr and George Pershing Hobson, who is not an attorney.
Prosecutors say Mehr and Hobson’s arrangement violated California Labor Code Section 3215, which prohibits paid referrals in the worker’s compensation and insurance industries, as did their co-ownership of an interpretation company, National Translations Services.The indictment charges Mehr with two felony conspiracy counts for referral of clients for compensation, as well as 22 counts of insurance fraud.
He’s being prosecuted by Orange County Deputy District Attorney Noorul Hasan, who also is prosecuting Mehr. Hassan declined comment when reached by Bloomberg Law.
The case is California v. Mehr, Cal. Super. Ct., No. 21ZF0015. Mehr is set to be arraigned July 12 on the indictment, which a grand jury returned last April. Both defendants have posted $100,000 bond while they await trial.
The criminal indictment in California may have a similar pattern, and follows a proposed New Jersey class action against Jacoby & Meyers, in which the plaintiffs say a third-party service company extracted thousands of dollars in additional fees that should have already been paid by their lawyers.
The suit, filed in federal court in Newark, New Jersey, pertains to Nancy and Jeffrey Harding and their former lawyers, Finkelstein & Partners, LLP, and a similar dispute between Barbara J. Smalls and her former lawyers, Jacoby & Myers, LLP.for work sent to Total Trial Solutions, MedTrial Solutions and CineTrial Solutions.
According to the suit, the litigation support companies are owned by Andrew Finkelstein, a partner of both Jacoby and Finkelstein, and Kenneth Oliver, a former partner of both firms. Plaintiffs also allege that the Law Firm Defendants improperly marked-up the cost of Total Trial’s work in order to make a profit.
In a January 2020 ruling, U.S. District Judge John Michael Vazquez granted Jacoby & Meyers’ motion to dismiss a claim for unjust enrichment, but declined to dismiss the case based on a lack of standing for plaintiff Barbara Smalls. He also declined to throw out allegations that defendants Andrew Finkelstein, his firm Finkelstein & Partners, and a company called Total Trial Solutions are alter egos.
According to the lengthy federal court docket, motions are pending in the case which is not yet scheduled for trial.
What remains to be seen, is the evidence in the Orange County criminal case that may or may not connect the dots showing a similar practice in California as what is alleged in the New Jersey civil case, specifically with respect to workers’ compensation claims, and the liens generated for services in those cases. The focus in California will start with National Translations Services, and what is alleged by prosecutors. And then to the copying and printing service providers.