Thursday, May 24, 2012

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Corpus Christi Attorney, Case Runner Sentenced on Felony Barratry Charges

ALICE – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott made the following statement after Corpus Christi attorney Benito Garza and case runner Timothy “Sugar Bear” Trevino were sentenced on felony barratry charges:

“Soliciting a legal client in a personal injury case immediately after a devastating accident is a crime in the State of Texas. It is also against the law for lawyers to secure a client’s case by paying off their relatives. But that didn’t stop the defendants in this case from making an uninvited 1:00 a.m. appearance at the home of a devastated mother – just hours after her son was killed in a tragic accident – so that they could illegally pitch their personal injury practice to the mourning family.”

On May 17, Garza appeared in a Jim Wells County district court, where he pleaded no contest to one count of barratry, a third-degree felony offense. In addition to serving 10 years probation and paying a $6,000 fine, Garza must immediately surrender his license to practice law. Garza was also required to testify against his co-defendant, case runner Timothy “Sugar Bear” Trevino.

A Jim Wells County jury convicted Trevino Tuesday on one felony barratry charge. Trevino was sentenced yesterday to three years in prison and taken into custody.

In 2010, state police officers with the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) executed an evidentiary search warrant at the office of The Garza Law Firm in Corpus Christi. According to the search warrant affidavit, Garza and Trevino unlawfully solicited legal employment from family members of a man who was killed in an automobile accident. The deceased man’s mother told OAG investigators that the defendants arrived at her home uninvited at 1 a.m. so that he could make an unsolicited sales call and offer his legal services to the victim’s family.

The Texas Penal Code stipulates that an individual commits barratry if, with intent to obtain an economic benefit, the person solicits employment, either in person or by telephone, for himself or for another.