Two attorneys surrendered to San Antonio authorities and were arrested after a grand jury indicted them for barratry. The criminal defense lawyer representing Paul Andrews and Keith Gould said the two attorneys “absolutely” deny the criminal allegations.
Both Andrews and Gould also have denied similar allegations lodged in a civil barratry lawsuit—a lawsuit filed in 2011 by a woman whom the indictment names as one of the barratry victims; Andrews and Gould’s lawyer said she is their former employee.
Andrews and Gould both face three counts of barratry, a third-degree felony that carries a sentence of two to 10 years of imprisonment and a fine up to $10,000. The two true bills of indictment, which are identical, allege that the lawyers paid or offered to pay money to three people to solicit cases from potential clients. One of those people was Maryann Uribe, the plaintiff who sued Andrews and Gould for civil barratry, among other things, in an ongoing suit in Corpus Christi.
Andrews declined to comment, and Gould didn’t return a call seeking comment.
“They definitely deny any wrongdoing,” said Demetrio Duarte Jr., who represents both lawyers. He said that “when the truth comes out,” it will show that the attorneys had policies in place to operate their business legally and ethically.
Barratry charges are uncommon in San Antonio.
“I’ve been here for 19 years, and in 19 years I believe this is the only barratry case that has been indicted,” said Trey Banack, chief of the white-collar crime division in the Bexar County Criminal District Attorney’s Office in San Antonio. “We don’t believe people should be hounded to create lawsuits, which could lead to false lawsuits.”
Andrews and Gould surrendered to authorities the first week of June.
Both of the May 29 true bills of indictment allege that Andrews and Gould committed barratry by paying or offering to pay “money to solicit employment by communicating with a prospective client … concerning an existing problem of the prospective client within the scope of the defendant’s professional license.”
Specifically, on Oct. 27, 2011, the lawyers allegedly offered to pay Uribe; and between June 2, 2011, and Nov. 1, 2011, they paid Mario Cordova and Maribel Cordova, according to the indictments.
The case originated from the San Antonio Police Department. Banack said Uribe filed the police report.
The “media copy” of the police report in the case redacts names and other details. Texas Lawyer received the report from police department spokeswoman Romana Lopez.
The report said that a woman on Sept. 20, 2012, met with an officer in the “white-collar crime detail” to report that two white male suspects on Oct. 1, 2011, committed the offense of barratry at 2118 Goliad Road in San Antonio, which is a “commercial/office building.”
Andrews and Gould have an office at that address, according to yellowpages.com and Google Maps. They primarily practice in Corpus Christi, according to State Bar of Texas membership records.
The police report said that the woman told the officer that she was employed with a “legal firm” in Corpus Christi and it opened a local office in San Antonio. She moved from Corpus Christi to San Antonio to work in the new office. After about one year, “she was offered a contract to continue working there,” said the police report.
“The contract stipulated that part of her job would be to solicit business for the firm. In return she would get 15 percent of the proceeds of the case. She objected on the grounds that doing so is barratry and illegal,” alleges the police report. The woman “was fired” and alleges it was “because she refused to participate in the barratry,” the report said.
The woman is in litigation with “her employers” over the firing, the report said.
“She presented a copy of a deposition where one of the suspects admitted to offering a fee for any ‘relatives’ or ‘friends’ she would refer,” according to the police report. She left “other documents to support her allegation.”
Uribe’s civil lawsuit against Andrews and Gould makes nearly identical allegations as the police report. Among other things, she sued them for allegedly violating the state’s civil barratry statute, which provides a $10,000 civil penalty. [See "Firm and Lawyers Deny Allegations in Barratry, FLSA Suits," Texas Lawyer, Jan. 23, 2012, page 5.]
Duarte said that Uribe worked for Andrews and Gould.
William R. “Bill” Edwards Sr. represents Uribe in the civil suit.
No one answered the phone at a number listed for Maribel Cordova. A man who answered at a number listed for Mario Cordova disconnected the call after a Texas Lawyer reporter identified herself.