Two employees of The Hartford, which the rest of us call The Hartford Insurance Company, pleaded guilty today to charges that they let a Houston attorney entertain the hell out of them in return for helping him make a mint off lawsuits.
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Rachel Rossow and Frederick Prestage pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud in U.S. District Judge David Hittner's court. The U.S. Attorney's office says they accepted luxury cars and "hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments" from Houston attorney Warren Todd Hoeffner, who was filing a lot of suits involving silica, a substance once thought to be the next asbestos when it came to big-bucks litigation.
Prosecutors say Prestage got more than $500,000 while Rossow, who obviously is a much better negotiator, received two separate payments of $312,500 and a third payment of $1,675,000. In return, they settled claims Hoeffner filed on behalf of clients in a way that was very, very favorably to Hoeffner. (More evidence of Rossow's chops: She got a BMW 530, Prestage got a Volvo.)
Hoeffner himself was tried on similar charges last October, but a hung jury led to a mistrial. He's now filed an appeal seeking to block a re-trial.
"the plea agreement entered into by Prestage and Rossow provides each the option to withdraw their pleas of guilty if the United States 5th Circuit Court of Appeals bars the prosecution of Hoeffner on double jeopardy grounds," the U.S. Attorney's office said.