From the Plea Agreement filed last week in U.S. v. Elstein (C.D. Cal.):
Beginning in or around September 2014, MATTHEW CHARLES ELSTEIN (“defendant”) engaged in a scheme to defraud defendant’s legal clients by claiming that he filed, on the client’s behalf, complaints, motions and other pleadings in court when, in fact, defendant knew no such complaints, motions and pleadings had been filed.
Defendant also claimed he had obtained favorable legal resolutions for his clients when, in fact, defendant had not obtained favorable resolutions and, in many cases, had never initiated a legal action….
Victims S.F., C.S.S., and Company A
In or around June 2015, Company A retained defendant to file a lawsuit against Company B regarding a contract dispute. S.F. and C.S.S. were the principals of Company A….
[D]efendant agreed to pursue Company A’s … substantive claims against Company B by filing a federal action on their behalf in the Northern District of California. Defendant, however, never filed such a lawsuit. Instead, he misled Company A into believing he had filed such a case, and billed Company A for work he did not perform.
On July 6, 2015, defendant emailed Company A falsely stating that he filed the case against Company B in the Northern District … prior to the Fourth of July holiday. Defendant communicated several lies to Company A about why the Northern District Case could not be found on Pacer, including that the case was under seal because the United States Department of Justice … was investigating the owner of Company B.
From then on, defendant continued to make false representations to induce payment from Company A regarding the fake Northern District case. For example, on October 10, 2015, defendant told Company A that he had filed a Second Amended Complaint in the Northern District Case. In an attempt to cover for his misrepresentation, on March 16, 2018, defendant emailed C.S.S. a fraudulent second amended complaint with a ficti[ti]ous case number and forged Pacer information.
On December 22, 2015 and March …