Texas Democrat Sent to Prison for 'Ambulance Chasing' Scheme

Prosecutor: 'You can't rehabilitate a deficiency of character like this one'

November 24, 2015

A Democratic state representative in Texas was sentenced to a year in prison for illegally soliciting accident victims to be clients of his law firm by paying individuals to pull names off police incident reports.

State Rep. Ron Reynolds (D.) was convicted on five counts of illegally soliciting clients and had his plea for probation rejected by a six-person jury on Monday. He was taken to county jail directly from the courtroom.

Reynolds was among eight Houston-area lawyers who were charged in 2013 for breaking Texas laws that bar lawyers from contacting accident victims within thirty days of an incident. All the others lawyer accepted a plea deal and avoided jail, but Reynolds maintained his innocence and won reelection in 2014.

Reynolds' defense case broke down after a man gave the transactional details of how Reynolds would pay him for each client he supplied the firm, according to the Houston Chronicle.

In testimony last week, Robert Ramirez Valdez, Sr., a four-time felon, alleged that the lawmaker paid him an average of $1,000 for each client recruited for his law firm.

Valdez said he would glean names of accident victims from police reports and persuade them to sign a contract for Reynolds to represent them. Reynolds contended that he did not know the clients were being illegally solicited; prosecutors said Reynolds was one of eight lawyers paying Valdez thousands of dollars to do just that. Valdez is serving a five-year prison sentence for his role in the scheme.

During the trial, several witnesses who said they had signed contracts for Reynolds to represent them said they never saw him in person until coming to the courtroom for his criminal trial.

The prosecutor for the case pressed for the maximum sentence allowed, stating her belief that "you can't rehabilitate a deficiency of character like this one" through anything but jail time.

"This wasn't just money, this was trust that was broken," said the prosecutor.