DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A longtime Dallas police records clerk is under investigation for allegedly funneling car crash information to a North Texas personal injury attorney.
According to a civil lawsuit filed last month, Margarita Monjaras, 51, provided details of a January 2017 wreck to a man paid to solicit business for Arlington attorney Loren Green.READ MORE: Texas Secretary Of State's Office So Far Not Releasing Details Behind 2020 Election Forensic Audit Plan
Barratry, better known as “ambulance chasing,” is illegal in Texas. State law prohibits any direct personal or telephone contact with victims until a month after an accident, although a solicitation letter is allowed.
In order to protect traumatized victims from fraud, personal information on police accident reports is not supposed to be given to attorneys unless they are first hired by a crash victim.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of an Irving couple who were in the 2017 wreck, alleges Monjaras gave personal details about the accident to Robert Guilhoux, who used the information to locate the crash victims and persuade them to hire Green. The accident victims later fired Green and sought an attorney on their own.
Green and Jeffrey Gipson, a legal assistant in Green’s office, declined to be interviewed for this story. Guilhoux, 50, did not respond to requests for comment. Monjaras, who began working for the Dallas Police Department in 1993, shut her front door when CBS 11 I-Team reporter Brian New tried to ask her about the case. She is currently on administrative leave pending the outcome of a criminal and internal investigation.
Green, Gipson, Guilhoux, and Monjaras “are actively involved in a criminal enterprise and civil conspiracy,” Tom Carse, the plaintiff’s attorney, alleges in his lawsuit. All the defendants have filed denials in the case.
Guilhoux, according to the suit, posed as an accident investigator when he went to the crash victim’s home and convinced them to sign legal service agreements and medical release waivers. Days later, according to evidence in the case, the Green law firm attempted to schedule chiropractic appointments for the crash victims and contacted Farmers Insurance about a possible settlement.
Texas has taken steps to crack down on ambulance chasing. New rules make it easier for car crash victims who were illegally solicited to sue their attorney and recover a $10,000 penalty and other damages.
Carse, a personal injury attorney, has filed dozens of barratry cases in recent years. He says the best way to stop ambulance chasers is to sue them.
“A number of these lawyers couldn’t find the courthouse in a phonebook,” he told CBS 11 News. “They handle these claims in mass and they are just settlement lawyers. They don’t have a client’s best interest at heart.”READ MORE: Dallas Firefighters Find Dead Dog Inside Burning House
In a video deposition in the case, Guilhoux testified he doesn’t know Monjaras or anyone in the Dallas police records office. The information about the crash victims, he said, came from an anonymous caller.
But Guilhoux’s phone records – subpoenaed by Carse – show otherwise. In the weeks around the wreck, according to the records, Guilhoux exchanged texts and calls with a phone number tied to Monjaras 68 times.
Green testified Guilhoux was a non-employee paid to do marketing.
“Who’s responsible for supervising him?” Carse asks in the video deposition.
“”He was independent,” Green responds.
“Objection,” Carse said. “Non-responsive.”
“No one,” Green replies.
Guilhoux, meanwhile, maintains he was only trying to help.
“Every, every morning when I get up,” he testified. “I usually just pray. I read my Bible, and I ask God to give me an opportunity to help somebody.”MORE NEWS: Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson Unveils Ethics Reform Plan To Crack Down On Corruption At City Hall