Regular readers of this blog may remember that I have written a number of posts about Derek Bluford, a one-time rising star on the legal tech start-up scene whose star fell after I reported in 2016 of his settlement of a lawsuit charging him with impersonating a lawyer, forging legal documents and fraudulently swindling two clients.
On Wednesday, a federal grand jury in Sacramento returned a five-count indictment against Bluford, charging him with wire fraud and money laundering.
When I first wrote about Bluford, he was slated to be featured two weeks later at a Legaltech West Coast program on legal innovation. Just 28 years old at the time, he had achieved success and won accolades as an entrepreneur, first starting California Legal Pros, a company that marketed various legal services to both consumers and lawyers. then QuickLegal, a service that provided on-demand legal advice to consumers, and then QuickLegal Practice Management, a cloud practice management platform for lawyers.
Following my report, QuickLegal shut down, but then seemed to be reincarnated in another similar startup called LawTova. After I wrote about that company (here and here), it too shut down. I then wrote about yet another startup that had ties to Bluford and QuickLegal, which has also since shut down.
This week’s indictment tracks the allegations of the civil lawsuit I reported on in 2016. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento alleges that Bluford told a couple that he was an attorney and could represent them in a dispute with their tenant. After the couple agreed, Bluford told them that they had incurred numerous fines and court costs, as well as costs to repair their rental unit; he also told them he had negotiated a settlement agreement with the couple’s former tenant. Based on these representations, the couple paid Bluford at least $535,000. Of course, Bluford was not an attorney and there were no fines or court costs. Bluford then allegedly laundered the proceeds from his scheme, according to the indictment.
If convicted, Bluford faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison on the wire fraud count, 10 years in prison on the money laundering counts, and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross loss or gross gain, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
See these posts for more information:
- And Now, Yet Another Startup From Some of the Former QuickLegal Crew.
- QuickLegal’s Counsel Responds To My Recent Reports About Startups LawTova and Text to Ticket.
- Legal Startup Appears to Shut Down After I Question Its Management.
- Former GC Sues QuickLegal for Unpaid Stock and Wages.
- Case of Startup CEO Charged with Fraud Gets Curiouser.
- CEO of Legal Startup Responds to Yesterday’s Post.
- CEO of Legal Startup Settles Lawsuit Charging Fraud, Forgery and Impersonating a Lawyer.