Family of Slain Lawyer Think They’ve Identified Murderer. So Why Can’t the Cops Solve the Case?

Soon after prominent Dallas lawyer Ira Tobolowsky died in a fire in his garage, investigators asked his family if he had any enemies. They responded that they could make a long list of people Ira had defeated or angered at one time or another. But among them, one stood out.

D Magazine covers the family’s own inquiries that focused on a former legal foe. Steven Aubrey is the son of one of Tobolowsky’s clients. The client was involved in an inheritance battle with her son, whom she believed had come unhinged, writes Jamie Thompson.

During a contentious legal fight, Aubrey accused Tobolowsky of bribery, witness tampering, and a host of other crimes and at one time compared him to an “ISIS butcher.” The lawyer filed a defamation suit against Aubrey.

“The Tobolowsky family worries whether the Dallas police have the resources to find Ira’s killer. They’ve pinned their hopes on private investigators. Late last year, they learned Aubrey and [his domestic partner] had moved to Florida. The men live in a bungalow surrounded by palm trees,” according to the magazine.

Read the D Magazine article.


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Lawyer Who Founded ‘Copyright Trolling’ Prenda Law Is Disbarred

John Steele, one of the masterminds behind the Prenda Law “copyright trolling” scheme, has been disbarred, reports Ars Technica.

Steele agreed to the disbarment two months after pleading guilty to federal fraud and money laundering charges.

Reporter  writes that Steele said he and a co-defendant, Paul Hansmeier, made more than $6 million over a two-year period with “sham entities” that threatened Internet users with copyright lawsuits.

Steele “conspired to extort settlement funds from thousands of Internet users in a multi-jurisdictional copyright litigation scheme,” Illinois attorney regulators said in a statement of charges. “Specifically, they attempted to exact settlements from users who allegedly infringed on the copyrights of certain pornographic movies, including movies that Mr. Steele himself produced and distributed.”

Read the Ars Technica article.


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Hackers Face $8.9 Million Fine for Law Firm Breaches

Three Chinese stock traders were ordered to pay $8.9 million in fines and penalties for hacking into two law firms and stealing information on upcoming mergers and acquisitions and then leveraging the information to trade stocks, according to a Dark Reading report.

A federal court in New York found that the three hackers installed malware on the law firms’ computer networks, enabling them to view emails on mergers and acquisitions in which the firms were involved. Then they used that information to buy stock in at least three public companies prior to their merger announcements, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The firms aren’t identified in the complaints, but Law360 reports they appear to be Weil Gotshal & Manges and Cravath Swaine & Moore, based on information in charging documents.

Read the Dark Reading article.


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Former Executive at Bankrupt NYC Law Firm Convicted of Fraud

The former chief financial officer of Dewey & LeBoeuf, once one of the nation’s largest law firms, has been convicted for hiding “severe financial challenges” that eventually led to the firm’s bankruptcy, reports The New York Times.

“A jury in Manhattan convicted Joel Sanders, the law firm’s former chief financial officer, on three criminal counts arising from what prosecutors said was a scheme to hide the firm’s failing finances from financial backers,” write Matthew Goldstein and Liz Moyer.

The jury acquitted the firm’s former executive director, Stephen DiCarmine, of the same charges.

Sanders’ guilty verdicts came on charges of securities fraud, scheme to defraud and conspiracy.

Read the NYT article.


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Uber Faces Criminal Probe Over the Secret ‘Greyball’ Tool It Used to Stymie Regulators

UberReuters is reporting that the U.S. Department of Justice has begun a criminal investigation into Uber Technologies Inc.’s use of a software tool that helped its drivers evade local transportation regulators, two sources familiar with the situation said.

Reporters Dan Levine and Joseph Menn write that Uber has acknowledged the software, known as “Greyball,” helped it identify and circumvent government officials who were trying to clamp down on Uber in areas where its service had not yet been approved, such as Portland, Oregon.

“The criminal probe could become a significant problem facing the company that is already struggling with an array of recent business and legal issues,” they explain.

Some Uber employees told Reuters that the Greyball technique was used against suspected local officials who could have been looking to fine drivers, impound cars or otherwise prevent Uber from operating.

Read the Reuters article.


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Gustave Newman, Defense Lawyer in Sensational Cases, Dies at 90

Gustave Newman, a criminal defense lawyer in a host of headline-grabbing cases who genially cajoled skeptical juries and cowed hostile witnesses with his booming baritone, died on Monday in Manhattan at the age of 90, reports The New York Times.

“A lion of New York’s white-collar criminal defense bar, Mr. Newman achieved one of his greatest courtroom successes in 1993, when, after a contentious five-month trial, he managed to win the acquittal of Robert A. Altman, a Washington lawyer who, with Clark M. Clifford, a former defense secretary, had been accused in a scandal involving global money-laundering and illegal transfer of capital,” writes Sam Roberts. “The episode, involving the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, cost depositors an estimated $12 million.”

Newman is believed by some to have tried 400 cases, according to the report.

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Legendary Texas Lawyer Richard ‘Racehorse’ Haynes Has Died

Legendary Houston attorney Richard “Racehorse” Haynes died early Friday morning, April 28, according to a statement from a family spokesman. He had had been in declining health for the past several years, the spokesman said.

“Haynes was one of the most well-known criminal defense lawyers in the country,” reports the Houston Chronicle. “He made a name for himself in the 1970s, with cases including the State of Texas v. John Hill, when he represented a River Oaks surgeon accused of murdering his socialite wife. After the first trial ended in a hung jury, Hill was murdered in the driveway of his River Oaks mansion. The case was made the subject of the Thomas Thompson book ‘Blood and Money,’ which was also turned into a movie.”

He also represented Cullen Davis, the first billionaire indicted for murder in the U.S., and Pam Fielder, who was accused of killing her abusive husband. Reporter Margaret Kadifa writes that Haynes’ defense on the Fielder case is now embodied in Texas law, giving women the right to defend themselves against abusers.

Criminal defense lawyer Chris Tritico said Haynes was easy-going until he stepped into a courtroom, Tritico said. He was legendary for his ability to take command of the courtroom, and effectively cross-examine witnesses.

Read the Houston Chronicle article.


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On Trial for Bribery, Samsung Boss Lets Lawyers Do the Talking

The third-generation leader of South Korea’s top conglomerate was mostly silent at his first court appearance in what has been called the “trial of the century,” as his lawyers labored to portray him as an innocent bystander in a graft scandal, reports Reuters.

Jay Y. Lee, the 48-year-old de facto leader of Samsung Group, could face a prison sentence of up to 20 years on charges including bribery and embezzlement in a scandal that led to the ouster of President Park Geun-hye, writes Joyce Lee.

The leader of the smartphones-to-biopharmaceuticals business empire is the only founding family member among the country’s most powerful conglomerates, called chaebol, to be indicted in a graft scandal that led to Park becoming South Korea’s first democratically elected leader to be removed from office,” according to the report.

Read the Reuters article.




Disbarred Lawyer in Hot Water Over Unpaid $600,000 Restitution

A disbarred Connecticut lawyer who owes more than $600,000 for stealing money from a client was given a dressing down by a frustrated Stamford judge who was angered that the man had paid less than $400 in restitution in five years, reports the Stamford Advocate.

Benson Snaider pleaded guilty to felony charge of first-degree larceny in 2012 for misappropriating an $800,000 check written by the city in 2005 for what turned out to be the partial payment for property to make way for the Stamford Urban Transitway, John Nickerson writes. Snaider received a five-year probated sentence and was ordered to pay $680,000 in restitution.

A court earlier found him to be in violation of his probation because he had maid only $180,000 in restitution payments.

Read the Stamford Advocate article.


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In-House Lawyer Killed in ‘Targeted’ Shooting in Broad Daylight

Atlanta police say Trinh Huynh, an attorney with UPS, was singled out and targeted before she was shot and killed on her way to work, according to a report in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

A suspect has been arrested in connection with the murder of Huynh, who escaped from Vietnam as a child with her family. She was a graduate of Princeton University and Emory University School of Law. Besides working for UPS, she provided pro bono legal services to immigrants, a local television station reported.

A police spokesman said surveillance footage shows the suspect, Raylon Browning, calmly approaching Huynh before the shooting and then briefly running afterward, before slowing down and walking away.

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Leon Cooperman Ordered to Trial in Insider-Trading Case

Omega Advisors Inc. founder Leon Cooperman must face a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission alleging the billionaire investor reaped more than $4 million in illegal profits after conversations with a company insider, a judge ruled in rejecting his request to throw out the case, according to a Bloomberg report.

A federal judge in Philadelphia ruled that the SEC had produced a “plausible claim for insider trading” and set a trial for November. The judge also dismissed claims that Cooperman failed to file required reports about his beneficial ownership of stocks of eight public companies.

Reporters Chris Dolmetsch and Patricia Hurtado write that the case will ultimately test the SEC’s novel theory that outsiders are liable for trading on inside tips even if they received the information before agreeing not to use it.

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Too Much Wine: Ex-BigLaw Partner’s Insider Tip to Broker Leads to His Conviction

A federal jury in Brooklyn convicted a former Hunton & Williams partner of insider trading charges of tipping off his financial adviser to his client King Pharmaceuticals’ then-pending $3.6 billion acquisition by Pfizer Inc., reports Bloomberg Law.

Robert Schulman of McLean, Va., was convicted of securities fraud and conspiracy charges. Post-trial defense motions are due April 14.

Schulman had represented King Pharmaceuticals Inc. in a patent case against Purdue Pharma LP as a lawyer with Hunton & Williams, the report says.

The indictment says Schulman tipped off his investment adviser of Klein Financial Services in Valley Stream, N.Y., about a Pfizer takeover plan during a dinner in August 2010 after having learned of it from another Hunton lawyer. During that dinner Schulman had several glasses of wine when he blurted to his adviser, “It would be nice to be King for a day,’” according to the SEC.

The adviser traded on the information and made profits for himself, Schulman and some other clients.

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Ex-Harvard Lawyer Gets 40 Years in Prison for Abducting Woman

A U.S. district judge sentenced disbarred Harvard-educated lawyer Matthew Muller to 40 years in prison for abducting a California woman in a crime so elaborate and bizarre that police initially dismissed it as a hoax, the Associated Press reports.

The victim was drugged along with her boyfriend and then dragged from their home in the San Francisco Bay area two years ago. She was forced to endure two days of physical and psychological torture.

“U.S. District Judge Troy Nunley called the abduction a ‘heinous, atrocious, horrible crime’ as he sentenced Muller, 39,” reports Don Thompson. “He had faced up to life in prison, but prosecutors agreed to recommend 40 years in exchange for his guilty plea.”

Prosecutors say Muller used a remote-controlled drone to spy on the couple before he broke into their home with a fake gun, tied them up and forced them to drink a sleep-inducing liquid.

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Miami Lawyer’s Pants Erupt in Flames During Arson Trial

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A Miami defense lawyer’s pants burst into flames Wednesday afternoon as he began his closing arguments in front of a jury — in an arson case, reports The Miami Herald.

Stephen Gutierrez, who was arguing that his client’s car spontaneously combusted and was not intentionally set on fire, had been fiddling in his pocket as he was about to address jurors when smoke began billowing out his right pocket, reporter .

The report says Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman, in the coming days, could decide to hold Gutierrez in contempt of court.

Read the Miami Herald story.


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China’s ZTE Pleads Guilty, Settles With U.S. Over Iran, NKorea Sales

ZTEReuters is reporting that Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE Corp has agreed to pay $892 million and plead guilty to criminal charges for violating U.S. laws that restrict the sale of American-made technology to Iran and North Korea.

“A five-year investigation found ZTE conspired to evade U.S. embargoes by buying U.S. components, incorporating them into ZTE equipment and illegally shipping them to Iran,” explains reporter Karen Freifeld. “In addition, it was charged in connection with 283 shipments of telecommunications equipment to North Korea.”

“With this action, we are putting the world on notice. Improper trade games are over with,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told reporters Tuesday. According to a CNBC report, he called ZTE’s actions “a brazen disregard for our laws.”

Read the Reuters article.


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Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Setting Copyright-Trolling Traps for Downloaders

One of the two attorneys behind the notorious Prenda Law copyright factory has finally admitted extracting more than $6 million from internet users by accusing them of illegally downloading porn, reports Forbes.

John Steele pleaded guilty to federal charges of  conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The U.S. Department of Justice alleged that Steele and co-defendant Paul Hansmeier set up an elaborate “honeypot” operation by buying rights to porn videos in the name of various shell companies and then uploading the videos to torrent sites themselves. They also produced some videos themselves, Steele admitted.

The scheme called for the two lawyers to obtain subpoenas to force internet service providers to hand over IP address of downloaders. Then they would threaten downloaders with financial penalties and public embarrassment unless the hapless victims agreed to pay a $3,000 settlement fee, writes Emma Woollacott.

Read the Forbes article.



U.S. Justice Department Targets Executives in Wells Fargo Probe

Reuters is reporting that a U.S. Justice Department probe into a phony accounts scandal at Wells Fargo & Co. is asking whether executives hid details from the company board and regulators as the problem grew over years, sources familiar with the review said.

Patrick Rucker reports that the move could result in criminal charges against bank employees involved.

“Officials are seeking to find out if executives shared everything they knew about the phony accounts to the Wells Fargo board of directors and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the lead regulator for national banks,” Rucker reports. “Even if executives are not charged with criminal misconduct, they could face civil penalties including fines or a ban from the banking industry. Wells has already fired some executives and clawed back portions of their pay.”

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U.S. Extends Its Search for Dirty Money in Real Estate

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The U.S. Treasury Department said it will extend its search for criminals who seek to launder money by buying U.S. real estate, according to a Reuters report.

The U.S. Treasury Department Financial Crimes Enforcement Network has had in place a rule that ordered  title insurance companies to report to authorities all-cash purchases in parts of California, Texas, Florida and New York.

“The agency said since imposing the original order in January 2016, it has found 30 percent of these cash real estate transactions involve a person who had previously been reported to authorities for suspicious financial activities,” Reuters reports.

The extension will keep the rule in place for a further 180 days.

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Doctor Guilty of Felony for Botched Surgery; Prosecutors Said His Hands Were Deadly Weapons

Christopher DuntschA day after a Dallas jury found a neurosurgeon guilty of intentionally crippling an elderly woman he operated on, a string of his former patients and co-workers testified in his sentencing trial, reports The Dallas Morning News.

Christopher Duntsch of Colorado has been in jail since his arrest in July 2015, charged with five aggravated assault charges after four of his patients were maimed and two died between July 2012 and June 2013, reports Claire Ballor.

“His trial focused only on a first-degree felony charge: injury to an elderly person. Mary Efurd was 74 years old in 2012 when Duntsch promised to fix her back pain but instead damaged her spinal cord and amputated part of a nerve,” writes Ballor.

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Akin Gump Lawyer Accused of Trying to Sell Lawsuit Under Seal

HandcuffsA Washington lawyer at a prominent firm was arrested in a disguise while trying to sell a copy of a secret lawsuit involving a company that was under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department, Bloomberg Law is reporting.

Jeffrey Wertkin immediately lost his job with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP after he was picked up Jan. 31 in the lobby of a hotel in Cupertino, California. The FBI said he believed he was about to collect $310,000 for selling the lawsuit.

Wertkin believed he would hand a copy of a complaint to an employee of the company, which was accused in the complaint by a whistle-blower of falsely billing the government, report Bloomberg’s Jef Feeley, David Voreacos and Joel Rosenblatt.

That employee turned out to be an FBI agent, according to arrest documents unsealed on Feb. 6.

Read the Bloomberg article.


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