AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Democratic state Rep. Ron Reynolds was charged Monday with taking part in an alleged ambulance chasing scheme involving other Houston-area lawyers in which they paid someone to illegally recruit clients who were involved in recent auto accidents.
Reynolds, 39, is charged with barratry, a third-degree felony commonly referred to as ambulance chasing. Aides at the two-term lawmaker's Capitol office declined to comment about the new charges.
Reynolds faced similar allegations in Harris County last year, but the case was dropped after an investigator was accused of stealing evidence. The new charges are unrelated to the Harris County investigation, Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon said.
Ligon declined to say how much money Reynolds or the seven other attorneys may have made through the alleged scheme.
According to an affidavit, a confidential informant told investigators in March that Reynolds and other attorneys paid middleman Robert Valdez, 47, to scour Houston police records for recent traffic accidents. Valdez was then allegedly paid if he managed to convince the driver who wasn't at fault to sign with a law firm.
"The (confidential informant) stated Reynolds would pay Robert for bringing in clients," the affidavit reads. "The CI recalled two recent cases where she and Robert solicited clients for attorney Ronald Reynolds."
Ligon said Reynolds was cooperating and planning to turn himself in to authorities. The Texas House returned to business Monday.
Reynolds' attorney, Vivian R. King, said in a statement Monday that she believed Valdez was striking a deal with the district attorney's office by "falsely incriminating others."
"Attorney Reynolds maintains his innocence, is fully cooperating with the authorities and will work to prove his innocence of any wrong-doing," King said.
Included in the affidavit is a narrative from an alleged March 1 meeting at Reynolds' office in Houston. According to investigators' informant, Valdez and Reynolds made small talk about the rodeo and a Mary J. Blige concert before "Reynolds handed Robert a small white envelope and Robert put the envelope in his pocket."
When Valdez and the informant returned to their car in the parking garage, Valdez took out the envelope and began to count what "appeared to be multiple 100 dollar bills," according to the affidavit.
Reynolds sits on House committees that deal with environmental regulation, technology and economic development.
Associated Press writer Juan A. Lozano in Houston contributed to this report.