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Former New York Lawyer Gets Almost 3 Years in Prison for Accepting $2.2 Million Kickback in Complex LADWP Corrupt Lawsuit Scheme

Posted by Fay Arfa | Nov 07, 2023 | 0 Comments

             In 2022,  Paradis, a New York lawyer, pleaded guilty to one count of bribery. A federal judge sentenced Paradis, a disbarred New York City lawyer who represented the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and a ratepayer suing the City of Los Angeles during an LADWP billing debacle, to 33 months in federal prison for accepting a $2.2 million dollar kickback for causing another lawyer to purportedly represent his ratepayer client in a collusive lawsuit against the city, which allowed the city to settle the case favorably. 
            In 2013, LADWP implemented a new billing system from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). After LADWP rolled out the new system, hundreds of thousands of LADWP ratepayers received massively inflated and inaccurate utility bills. Several ratepayers, in multiple class-action lawsuits, sued the city and LADWP. 
            In December 2014, the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office hired Paradis as special counsel to represent the city in a lawsuit against PwC. The Los Angeles City Attorney's Office knew that Paradis also represented Antwon Jones, a ratepayer who sued  LADWP for overbilling charges. Jones did not know his lawyer, Paradis, also represented his intended adversary.
            At a February 2015 meeting, the City Attorney's Office authorized Paradis to find a “friendly” counsel to the city to supposedly represent Jones in a class-action lawsuit against the city. Under this “white knight” strategy, the Jones v. City of Los Angeles lawsuit would be used to settle all existing LADWP billing-related claims against the city favorably. 
            Paradis found an Ohio lawyer to represent Jones in the white knight lawsuit nominally;  Paradis would do almost all the work. In exchange, and unbeknownst to the city, Paradis and the Ohio lawyer agreed that Paradis would receive 20% of the Ohio lawyer's fees in the Jones v. City case as a secret kickback.
            In July 2017, a Los Angeles judge approved a $67 million settlement in Jones v. City, including about $19 million in plaintiffs' attorney fees.  The Ohio lawyer would get $10.3 million. The Ohio lawyer then secretly paid $2,175,000 to Paradis, disguising the kickback as a real estate investment and funneling it through shell companies that Paradis and the Ohio lawyer had set up to transmit and hide the illegal payment.
            Paradis also bribed  LADWP's general manager, David H. Wright, to get a lucrative $30 million no-bid contract in June 2017 to remediate LADWP's billing system. In another secret deal, Wright lobbied the LADWP Board to approve the contract for Aventador Utility Solutions, a downtown Los Angeles-based cyber services company formed by Paradis, in exchange for Paradis' promise to make Wright Aventador's future CEO and pay him a yearly $1 million salary get him and luxury car.
            When the LADWP Board approved the no-bid contract, the LADWP Board did not know that Paradis had ghostwritten a May 2017 independent monitor report on the Jones v. City settlement on which LADWP based its decision. The Paradis-written report claimed that LADWP could not meet its obligations under the Jones v. City settlement agreement unless it contracted with Aventador. The LADWP Board did not know Wright had been bribed to advocate for the $30 million no-bid contract to Paradis's company. 
            Paradis pled guilty to a cooperation plea agreement that required Paradis to provide information to federal investigators and the California State Bar of California. Paradis' cooperation helped prosecutors get Wright to plead guilty to bribery; Thomas H. Peters, City Attorney's Office litigation chief, to plead guilty to extortion; and David F. Alexander, LADWP's former Chief Information Officer, to plead guilty to lying to the FBI. Wright and Alexander are serving federal prison sentences of six years and four years, respectively. Peters got a probationary sentence. 

About the Author

Fay Arfa

Fay Arfa has the distinction of being Certified as a Specialist in two separate areas of law – Criminal Law as well as Appellate Law – by the California State Bar, Board of Specialization. The National Board of Trial Advocacy has also awarded her a board Certification in Criminal Trial Advocacy. ...


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