Posted January 19, 2018, 5:19 pm CST
Legal technology entrepreneur Derek Bluford has been indicted on charges of wire fraud and money laundering.
The five-count indictment in the Eastern District of California alleges that the 30-year-old Bluford falsely represented himself as an attorney to a married couple and defrauded them of $535,000.
Bluford, the founder of two online legal startups—California Legal Pros and Quicklegal—was seen as a rising star in the legal technology community, according to Robert Ambrogi’s LawSites.
In the indictment, it is alleged that Bluford represented himself as an attorney through his company California Legal Pros to a couple wrangling a legal dispute with a tenant in California.
The couple accepted Bluford’s services in 2014. He subsequently claimed his representation of them created numerous court fees, county fines and settlement costs. The couple paid the various fees to Bluford, which he pocketed, the indictment alleges.
In one example from the indictment, Bluford claimed to have negotiated a settlement with a tenant to stave off a countersuit. Bluford collected $130,000 from the couple to pay the settlement, gave less than $5,000 to the tenant and spent the rest on personal expenses.
The criminal charges, brought Jan. 11, track a civil suit filed by the couple against Bluford in 2016.
In a separate matter, Bluford was sued by an attorney in 2014 who worked as in-house counsel for Quicklegal and was not paid, according to the filing. The case was settled last year.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, if found guilty of these recent charges, Bluford faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for wire fraud and 10 years in prison for money laundering.
Bluford has been given conditional release awaiting trial.
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