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L.A. Lawyer Indicted in Alleged Jacoby & Meyers Referral Scheme

May 12, 2021, 11:27 AM

A California attorney is facing charges for 24 felony offenses stemming from an alleged marketing scheme involving one of the country’s most recognizable personal injury firms.

Prosecutors in Orange County say Steven Mehr, 45, used an illegal referral system to send potential clients to Jacoby & Meyers and load them up with fees in the process. Mehr also allegedly used the system to direct business to copying and printing services providers he controlled, bilking unsuspecting clients and worker compensation insurance companies.

Mehr is set to be arraigned July 12 on the indictment, which a grand jury returned in April. His lawyer, Steven Baric, declined to comment. Representatives for Jacoby & Meyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The indictment comes as prosecutors in Orange County are increasingly going after attorneys who handle workers’ compensation and other injury cases over accusations of fraud and related crimes. It also follows a proposed New Jersey class action against Jacoby & Meyers, in which the firm’s clients say a third-party service company extracted thousands of dollars in additional fees that should have already been paid by their lawyers.

The indictment accuses Mehr of purchasing usage rights from Jacoby & Meyers in a referral-for-compensation criminal conspiracy for his attorney marketing firm, Web Shark 360.

Founded by Leonard Jacoby and Stephen Meyers in 1972, Jacoby & Meyers is well known for its aggressive public marketing campaigns for work in personal injury cases. The calls itself a “full service consumer law firm” on its website and lists regional offices in Alabama, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and Washington, D.C.

Mehr, a licensed attorney in California since 2005, described himself as “chairman of the Law Office of Jacoby & Meyers California operations” in a 2015 interview with an online legal industry publication. He purchased the L.A. Weekly in 2017 with other investors.

The indictment outlines a five-year conspiracy from 2011 to 2016 that allegedly involved Mehr and George Hobson, who is not an attorney.

Prosecutors say Mehr and Hobson’s arrangement violated California Labor Code Section 3215, which prohibits paid referrals in the worker’s compensation and insurance industries, as did their co-ownership of an interpretation company, National Translations Services.The indictment charges Mehr with two felony conspiracy counts for referral of clients for compensation, as well as 22 counts of insurance fraud.

The prosecution continues a recent push against alleged workers’ compensation fraud by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. Prosecutors in 2017 announced indictments against 10 lawyers and six others in an alleged fraud ring involving kickbacks and illegal recruitment payments to workers’ compensation clients.

A jury returned the first conviction April 15, finding lawyer Robert Slater guilty of 11 felonies involving conspiracy and fraudulent insurance benefit claims. Another jury hung 8-4 in favor of acquitting attorney Jon Woods after a six-week trial in 2019.

Woods is awaiting a second trial, currently scheduled for June 4.

He’s being prosecuted by Orange County Deputy District Attorney Noorul Hasan, who also is prosecuting Mehr. Hassan declined comment when reached by Bloomberg Law.

The case is California v. Mehr, Cal. Super. Ct., No. 21-ZF-0015, indictment 4/20/21.

To contact the correspondent on this story: Meghann M. Cuniff in Los Angeles at meghann.cuniff@gmail.com.

To contact the editors on this story: Chris Opfer in New York at copfer@bloomberglaw.com.

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