Florida Bar Expenses ‘Cell Declare Heart’ Defrauded Hurricane Victims

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The Florida Bar is looking for sanctions in opposition to a associate with a distinguished New Orleans-area legislation agency, alleging he used misleading ways to search out shoppers after Hurricane Ian.

The Bar on Thursday filed a petition with the Florida Supreme Court docket asking for an emergency suspension of licensed legislation enforcement for Jennifer Perez, a associate with Gauthier, Murphy & Houghtaling. The Bar’s pleading said that GM&H parked the truck within the car parking zone of the Riverview Inn, a closed motel in North Fort Meyers, and staffed it with “non-lawyers” who admitted to investigators that it was “usually misperceived” as belonging. Federal Emergency Administration Company.

FEMA has participated in “insurance coverage villages” that the Florida Division of Monetary Providers arrange in Fort Meyers and Port Charlotte to assist hurricane victims. No legal professionals are allowed within the facilities.

Jennifer Perez

“Details about the Louisiana legislation agency was intentionally obscured within the respondent’s ‘Cell Declare Heart’ to create the impression that the truck was a part of a FEMA or state-run insurance coverage village, giving the Louisiana legislation agency a chance to assert hurricane victims,” ​​he stated. the petition says.

The Bar Petition features a {photograph} of what seems to be a fifth-wheel trailer (though described as a truck) with an air-conditioned tent connected. A black plastic sheet covers the legislation agency’s title, however doesn’t clearly embody the agency’s Louisiana cellphone quantity.

“The Louisiana legislation agency’s web site deliberately consists of the handle of the defunct motel to create the impression that it has a bona fide legislation workplace in Florida,” the petition says.

The petition consists of affidavits by employees investigators Karen Brown and John Berrena.

Berrena stated when he visited the location on Oct. 18 he encountered a person who recognized himself as Sergio Alvardo, who’s neither a lawyer nor a paralegal. Alvarado instructed Berrena that the one who walked into the tent thought it was a FEMA middle. When requested if there was an legal professional on web site, Alvarado recognized John Houghtaling, a associate within the legislation agency with an workplace in Metairie, Louisiana, the affidavit stated.

Houghtaling could also be finest recognized to Claims Journal readers because the legal professional who filed the primary lawsuit looking for protection for enterprise interruption losses brought on by COVID-19. He gained a uncommon appellate court docket victory for his shopper, a New Orleans seafood restaurant.

Berrena stated she known as Houghtaling’s workplace and spoke with a paralegal who instructed her Perez was the legislation agency’s Florida legal professional.

In response to the legislation agency’s web site, Perez acquired his Juris Physician in 2018 from Loyola College in New Orleans. He was admitted to the Florida Bar in Could 2020.

Brown’s affidavit stated the GM&H legislation agency’s web site listed the Riverview Inn as Perez’s handle. The signal on the motel door says it is “shut”. Brown stated the paralegal stated Brown was working from a digital workplace.

The Bar pleading stated that Perez violated six Guidelines of Skilled Conduct that require authorized supervision of all non-lawyer assistants, prohibiting the unlicensed apply of legislation, prohibiting direct solicitation of shoppers and prohibiting deceptive statements.

The bar requested the Supreme Court docket to right away droop Perez’s license, bar him from contracting with new shoppers, cease withdrawing or withdrawing cash from the belief account and cease receiving authorized charges.

Neither Perez nor Houghtaling may very well be reached for touch upon Friday.

High photograph: This screenshot, taken from the Florida Bar’s petition to droop Jennifer Perez’s legislation license, reveals a truck or trailer parked outdoors the Riverview Inn in North Fort Meyers.

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