Regular readers of this blog may remember that I have written a number of posts about Derek Bluford, a one-time rising star on the legal tech start-up scene whose star fell after I reported in 2016 of his settlement of a lawsuit charging him with impersonating a lawyer, forging legal documents and fraudulently swindling two clients.

Derek Bluford

On Wednesday, a federal grand jury in Sacramento returned a five-count indictment against Bluford, charging him with wire fraud and money laundering.

When I first wrote about Bluford, he was slated to be featured two weeks later at a Legaltech West Coast program on legal innovation. Just 28 years old at the time, he had achieved success and won accolades as an entrepreneur, first starting California Legal Pros, a company that marketed various legal services to both consumers and lawyers. then QuickLegal, a service that provided on-demand legal advice to consumers, and then QuickLegal Practice Management, a cloud practice management platform for lawyers.

Following my report, QuickLegal shut down, but then seemed to be reincarnated in another similar startup called LawTova. After I wrote about that company (here and here), it too shut down. I then wrote about yet another startup that had ties to Bluford and QuickLegal, which has also since shut down.

This week’s indictment tracks the allegations of the civil lawsuit I reported on in 2016. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento alleges that Bluford told a couple that he was an attorney and could represent them in a dispute with their tenant. After the couple agreed, Bluford told them that they had incurred numerous fines and court costs, as well as costs to repair their rental unit; he also told them he had negotiated a settlement agreement with the couple’s former tenant. Based on these representations, the couple paid Bluford at least $535,000. Of course, Bluford was not an attorney and there were no fines or court costs. Bluford then allegedly laundered the proceeds from his scheme, according to the indictment.

If convicted, Bluford faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison on the wire fraud count, 10 years in prison on the money laundering counts, and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross loss or gross gain, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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Photo of Bob Ambrogi Bob Ambrogi

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.