Monday, August 7, 2017
D.A.’s Office Seeks Inquiry on Possible Conflicts
Wants Judge Fidler to Probe Representations of Defendants in Prosecutions Stemming From Alleged $150 Million Insurance Fraud
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Deputy District Attorney
The Office of Los Angeles County District Attorney will be asking Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry Fidler tomorrow morning to look into the possibility of conflicts on the part of attorneys in an alleged $150 million insurance scam, with the asserted ring leader, who has fled to Lebanon, purportedly funding the defenses.
In an 81-page “Petition for a Court Inquiry Regarding Potential and/or Actual Conflict(s) of Interest and Appointment of Separate Advisory Counsel,” Deputy District Attorney Dayan Matthai wrote:
“[T]he People bring to the Court’s attention potential conflicts arising from the possible payment of attorney’s fees by a charged co-conspirator, Munir Uwaydah…, either directly or through other co-conspirators, to counsel for other charged defendants in these cases. Uwaydah is the operator of the criminal enterprise at the heart of this prosecution. The People allege that each charged defendant, each suspect business entity, and each suspect bank account in these cases is integrally connected to Uwaydah, and that his money is the primary source for funding the criminal activities charged against the defendants in the cases before this Court….Uwaydah has a long history of paying for lawsuits, and paying for attorneys, that protect his name and interests even when he is not a named party in the case.”
The Los Angeles County Grand Jury in September 2015 indicted Uwaydah, an orthopedic surgeon, and 14 associates, including a doctor and a lawyer, in connection with an alleged massive scheme to bilk insurance companies. Allegations include illegal kickbacks and unnecessary surgeries performed by non-surgeons.
In a footnote, Matthai said:
“Uwaydah, a U.S. citizen under suspicion on murder and fraud charges, fled the United States for Lebanon, a country that does not have an extradition treaty with the United States. It is believed he remains in Lebanon to this day, and is still actively involved in directing the on-going criminal organization. An arrest warrant has been issued for his arrest.”
Gluck’s Conflict Alleged
The petition also alleges that attorney Benjamin N. Gluck of Bird Marella “has represented, and/or is believed to be currently representing, co-conspirator Uwaydah,” while presently representing co-defendants, as well as potential witnesses, in addition to entities purportedly owned by defendants in the case, but believed to be owned, in actuality, by Uwaydah.
“[A] massive conflict of interest presents itself,” the petition asserts.
“The People have attempted, without success, to obtain from Gluck conflict waivers for these current or former clients,” the petition advises. “The People are now formally petitioning this Court to conduct an independent inquiry into defense counsel’s various types of conflict as set forth below, and to take special steps, if necessary, to safeguard the defendants’ constitutional rights.”
Matthai pointed out:
“The People take no position on the outcome of this issue at this time, as the first step is for the Court to make an inquiry, as is requested in this Petition. The defendants have a clear and crucial right to choose their own representations and to have uninterrupted and confidential relationships with their counsel. However, the law dictates that special steps must be taken to ensure that the defendants are aware of any potential conflict(s) that could deny them effective assistance of counsel.”
The petition asks that Fidler alert the defendants to possible conflicts, appoint advisory counsel for them, obtain their waivers if they want to stick with their current lawyers, and oust any lawyer if a waiver would not be sufficient.
Criminal Enterprise ‘Boss’
The District Attorney’s Office maintains that Uwaydah is “the owner of the criminal enterprise” and declares:
“The criminal enterprise is vast, involving dozens of business entities and bank accounts all over the world which are controlled by Uwaydah. Like other organized crime enterprises, the Uwaydah criminal organization has a structure, and uses lawyers and accountants to hide the leader’s involvement in the criminal acts. But there can be no doubt that the organization has a boss, and Uwaydah is that boss. To maximize the proceeds from his criminal empire, Uwaydah hides his actions and his involvement with the various entities by having some of his lawyers create false filings with state regulatory agencies, file false lawsuits in the names of straw plaintiffs, and negotiate for him without using his name or connecting him to the objective being sought.
“The evidence in this case shows that, among the ‘army of lawyers’ that Uwaydah employs, Gluck remains as the main counsel for Uwaydah and most of Uwaydah’s entities.”
The petition mentions that one of the defendants has referred to Uwaydah as “Benjamin’s boss.”
It appears that Uwaydah, directly or indirectly, is paying Bird Marella for the defense of Dr. Paul Turley, who was Uwaydah’s partner in Frontline Medical Associates, through which the illegal activities were conducted, according to the petition. It alleges that a conflict of interests between the two is inherent and Turley not receive adequate representation.
“Since 2010, Gluck and his law firm Bird Marella have hundreds of thousands of dollars, millions, in legal fees from Uwaydah and/or his alter-ego entities,” the petition says.
Gluck commented yesterday:
“We informed Judge Fidler this morning that to the extent he wants to inquire of any clients about their choice of counsel, we are prepared to do so at his convenience. Beyond that, the People’s actions raise serious Sixth Amendment implications, which we will deal with at a later date.”
Copyright 2017, Metropolitan News Company