Criminal Justice

Med-mal lawyer is accused of trying to extort hospital system

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A well-known medical malpractice lawyer in Baltimore has been charged with attempted extortion for allegedly seeking $25 million to keep quiet about what he deemed to be problems with a hospital system’s organ transplant practices.

Lawyer Stephen Snyder, 72, is facing federal charges of attempted extortion and violation of the Travel Act, which bans the use of mail or interstate travel to commit certain criminal acts, according to the Baltimore Sun, WMAR Baltimore and an Oct. 5 Department of Justice press release.

Snyder was accused of trying to extort the money from the University of Maryland Medical System by threatening to launch a negative public relations campaign if he didn’t receive $25 million under a sham consulting arrangement.

When asked what he could do for $25 million, Snyder allegedly said he didn’t know, didn’t care and could be a janitor, according to the DOJ press release.

Snyder allegedly told hospital representatives that he would publicly claim that the hospital system sought to generate revenue by transplanting diseased organs into unsophisticated patients without informed consent.

He allegedly played videos that he had produced to hospital representatives and said they would be aired if he didn’t get the money. One video said his client hadn’t been told that 250 institutions had rejected the kidney that he received, prosecutors said. The video included images of the client with necrotic fingertips and an amputated leg.

The University of Maryland Medical System went to the FBI in 2019, according to the Baltimore Sun.

The hospital system defended its transplant program in a statement to the Baltimore Sun.

“Our experts often handle the most complex cases that other transplant centers have declined, and our program’s capabilities in kidney, heart, liver, pancreas and lung transplantation are well recognized regionally and nationally,” the statement said.

Snyder told the Baltimore Sun last year that he had had done nothing wrong and he was “really the victim, to be honest with you.” He said the hospital system filed an ethics complaint against him to silence him. He offered to become a consultant to the hospital to “help prevent any future tragedies,” he said.

According to the Baltimore Sun, Snyder was considered one of the top plaintiffs lawyers in Maryland. His firm, the Snyder Litigation Group, used the slogan: “Don’t just sue them. Snyder them.”

Snyder’s indictment follows the filing of federal extortion charges against three other lawyers in two unrelated cases. In both cases, the lawyers were accused of threatening to reveal negative information about corporations if they didn’t receive payoffs. Those lawyers also were accused of suggesting consulting agreements to disguise the payments.

One of the lawyers facing an extortion charge is Michael Avenatti, the former lawyer for adult film actress Stormy Daniels. He is accused of trying to extort millions of dollars from Nike. The other lawyers are Timothy Litzenburg and Daniel Kincheloe of Virginia, who each pleaded guilty in June to transmitting interstate communications with the intent to extort a multinational chemical company.

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