Trial Starts for PI Lawyer Accused of Paying Bribes for Settlement
Posted Aug 25, 2009 6:11 AM CST
By Debra Cassens Weiss
A Houston personal injury lawyer listened to opening statements Monday in his kickback trial for paying $3 million to two Hartford Insurance Co. managers and treating them to new cars and a vacation.
Prosecutors maintain lawyer Warren Todd Hoeffner bribed the former Hartford employees to obtain a $34 million settlement for hundreds of clients with silicosis, racing to complete the deal before tort reform kicked in, the Houston Chronicle reports. Hoeffner, on the other hand, claims that the employees extorted the payments from him.
Hoeffner is accused of paying the employees $3 million in cash, buying them BMWs, and treating them to a vacation at the Breakers in Florida that included spa treatments and “gentlemen's entertainment.” He is charged with conspiracy, fraud and money laundering. The two former employees have been charged with conspiracy and fraud, and will be tried later.
Clients and Hartford have also filed civil lawsuits against Hoeffner, who filed a counterclaim against the insurer.