A federal grand jury in Houston charged an attorney and two former employees of The Hartford Insurance Company with conspiracy, mail and wire fraud and the laundering of millions of dollars.
The funds were allegedly paid by the attorney in bribes and kickbacks to the former insurance company employees to recommend the settlement of silica-related disease claims and civil suits.
Warren Todd Hoeffner, 42, a Houston attorney, was arrested June 27 at his Houston area home, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's office of the Southern District of Texas.
Texas lawyers involved with silicosis litigation told the Houston Chronicle that Hoeffner once had almost 1,000 cases several years ago and settled them in bulk.
A search at the District Clerk's office did not turn up any cases filed by Hoeffner in Jefferson County. The Orange County District Clerk's office is unable to search by attorney name.
Along with Hoeffner's arrest in Texas, Rachel Rossow 41, of Redding, Conn., and John Prestage 36, of Newington, Conn., both former employees of The Hartford Insurance Company were arrested in Connecticut.
"There is a presumption of regularity and legality in the business of insurance litigation, which when corrupted, damages our confidence in the integrity of the system," said U. S. Attorney Don DeGabrielle.
According to the allegations in the indictment, between February 2002 and November 2004, Hoeffner, the general partner of Hoeffner & Bilek law firm, bribed and paid kickbacks in litigation settlement funds to Rossow and Prestage, then employees of The Hartford insurance company, for recommending to The Hartford that it settle the more than $34 million in claims of Hoeffner's clients against The Hartford and its insureds.
A trial for Hoeffner has been set for Sept. 4 before U. S. District Judge David Hittner.