A veteran Los Angeles litigator is facing federal prison time after pleading guilty in a fraud and forgery scheme that ensnared three law firms in malpractice lawsuits.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office’s recent plea deal with Matthew Charles Elstein offers a window into an elaborate web that one lawsuit calls an indictment of the law firm hiring process and the push for so-called lateral transfers that disregards clear red flags about problem lawyers.