The chief operating officer and two lawyers associated with a company that bought lead victims’ settlements for much less than their value were found guilty Wednesday of theft charges, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh announced.
Access Funding, based in Chevy Chase, paid out small lump sums to victims of lead paint poisoning in exchange for the rights to the long-term settlements they were awarded.
The company’s chief operating officer Raffi Michael Boghosian and its attorney Anuj Sud, along with attorney Charles Edward Smith Jr., were found guilty of theft scheme over $100,000 and conspiracy to commit theft scheme over $100,000 in Baltimore City Circuit Court.
One of Access Funding’s customers was Freddie Gray, who was poisoned by lead paint long before his 2015 death in Baltimore Police custody.
Gray and his siblings sold their settlement, valued at $280,000, for about $54,000 in a deal approved by a Prince George’s County judge.
Access Funding purchased the settlement rights of 94 people, mostly Baltimore City victims of lead poisoning, the Attorney General’s Office said in a news release. The company acquired rights to settlements now worth over $21 million in exchange for less than $7 million in cash lump sums, in some cases paying as little as 8 cents on the dollar of the payments’ value today, the release said.
Attorneys listed in court records for Boghosian, Smith and Sud did not return calls requesting comment Wednesday.
Prosecutors said that Boghosian, Sud and Smith prevented the settlement awardees from getting independent professional advice, a requirement of transferring the structured settlement payment rights. Smith, a friend of Boghosian’s, pretended to give independent advice while receiving secret kickbacks from Sud, who filed petitions for court orders transferring the rights to the lead paint victims’ settlements.
“These individuals preyed upon vulnerable victims of lead paint poisoning in Baltimore City,” Frosh said in the release. “The victims received a small fraction of the actual value of their structured settlements, depriving them of a much-needed lifeline meant to support them long-term.”
The Attorney General’s Office sued the company and a number of its officials in 2016.