A Texas lawyer and lawmaker has been charged with participating in an ambulance-chasing scheme with at least seven other attorneys.
State Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City, was charged with barratry on March 25 in Montgomery County on allegations he and other Houston-area lawyers paid someone to illegally recruit auto wreck clients. Barratry, commonly known as ambulance chasing, is a third degree felony.
Texas law prohibits soliciting a client for legal services, and in 2011 the Texas Legislature passed a statute that makes barratry a civil as well as criminal infraction, allowing civil suits to be filed.
The Associated Press reported that according to an affidavit, a confidential informant told investigators that Reynolds and other attorneys paid a man named Robert Valdez to search Houston police reports for recent traffic accidents. Valdez would be paid if he signed up the driver who was not at fault in the crash.
“The (confidential informant) stated Reynolds would pay Robert for bringing in clients,” the affidavit reads.
As the Southeast Texas Record previously reported, Reynolds, 39, faced similar charges in Harris County last year, but those charges were dropped. Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon said his investigation is unrelated to that case.
Ligon said the ringleader of the scheme was the owner of a chiropractor clinic, according to the AP. Another news report said Valdez may have been a co-owner in the clinic.
Reynolds' attorney said the informant falsely incriminated the lawyers to strike a deal with prosecutors.
According to his Texas House member page, Reynolds graduated from Texas Southern University and then earned a law degree from Texas Tech University School of Law.
He is a partner at Brown, Brown & Reynolds law firm and a certified mediator. The site says Reynolds is a past president of the Houston Lawyers Association.
Reynolds serves on the House Environmental Regulation and Technology committees and is the House Democratic Whip.
The website for the Brown Brown & Reynolds law firm claims it is one of the “largest and most successful minority-owned law firms in the State of Texas.”