News

RICO suit against disability law firm settled

Mission Law Firm settles case alleging criminal conspiracy

A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit against a San Jose law firm notorious for filing thousands of disability lawsuits against small businesses.

As of Oct. 20, all parties notified a federal judge that they had agreed to a settlement deal before the case was scheduled to go to trial. The rush to settle the case came as the defendants, accused of running a criminal enterprise, were being ordered by the court to produce more than 70,000 emails, text messages and other documents relevant to the case.

The defendants include several attorneys, consultants and clients of the now-closed Mission Law Firm, headed by attorney Tanya Moore, which gained a reputation for using the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to shake down small businesses through canned lawsuits. The firm and its spinoffs are believed to be responsible for more than 2,000 accessibility suits across the state, including hundreds of cases targeting small businesses in the Bay Area. Locally, attorneys from the firm have sued Ava's Market, Blossom True Hardware and Taqueria La Espuela in Mountain View, forcing the businesses to pay a quick settlement or risk a lengthy and expensive trial.

Some business owners blamed the lawsuits for forcing them out of business. Restaurants including the Omelette House in Mountain View, Jason's Cafe in Menlo Park and San Jose's Time Deli each shut down after being hit by an ADA suit.

Last year, the Mission Law Firm itself got sued, facing allegations it was no different than a criminal enterprise that could be prosecuted under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. That civil case, filed by Burlingame-based attorney Moji Saniefar, alleged the firm used fraud and extortion to coerce small businesses into paying settlements.

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For nearly two years, that case has been winding its way through pre-trial motions, including an extensive process to take depositions and disclose the defendants' private correspondence. As the case progressed, U.S. District Judge Lawrence O'Neill excoriated the defendants at the Mission Law Firm for trying to conceal information, destroy evidence and influence witnesses. Just a few days before the settlement was announced, the defendants were being compelled by court order to immediately produce reams of documents under discovery after more than a year of delays.

By agreeing to resolve the case before it headed to trial, all involved parties agreed not to disclose any details of the settlement deal, including any financial payments. Since the case was filed last year, two defendants have filed for bankruptcy.

Reached for comment, Saniefar said she was prohibited from speaking about the case. Moore did not respond to requests for comment prior to the Voice's press deadline Wednesday afternoon.

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RICO suit against disability law firm settled

Mission Law Firm settles case alleging criminal conspiracy

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Tue, Nov 26, 2019, 8:59 am

A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit against a San Jose law firm notorious for filing thousands of disability lawsuits against small businesses.

As of Oct. 20, all parties notified a federal judge that they had agreed to a settlement deal before the case was scheduled to go to trial. The rush to settle the case came as the defendants, accused of running a criminal enterprise, were being ordered by the court to produce more than 70,000 emails, text messages and other documents relevant to the case.

The defendants include several attorneys, consultants and clients of the now-closed Mission Law Firm, headed by attorney Tanya Moore, which gained a reputation for using the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to shake down small businesses through canned lawsuits. The firm and its spinoffs are believed to be responsible for more than 2,000 accessibility suits across the state, including hundreds of cases targeting small businesses in the Bay Area. Locally, attorneys from the firm have sued Ava's Market, Blossom True Hardware and Taqueria La Espuela in Mountain View, forcing the businesses to pay a quick settlement or risk a lengthy and expensive trial.

Some business owners blamed the lawsuits for forcing them out of business. Restaurants including the Omelette House in Mountain View, Jason's Cafe in Menlo Park and San Jose's Time Deli each shut down after being hit by an ADA suit.

Last year, the Mission Law Firm itself got sued, facing allegations it was no different than a criminal enterprise that could be prosecuted under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. That civil case, filed by Burlingame-based attorney Moji Saniefar, alleged the firm used fraud and extortion to coerce small businesses into paying settlements.

For nearly two years, that case has been winding its way through pre-trial motions, including an extensive process to take depositions and disclose the defendants' private correspondence. As the case progressed, U.S. District Judge Lawrence O'Neill excoriated the defendants at the Mission Law Firm for trying to conceal information, destroy evidence and influence witnesses. Just a few days before the settlement was announced, the defendants were being compelled by court order to immediately produce reams of documents under discovery after more than a year of delays.

By agreeing to resolve the case before it headed to trial, all involved parties agreed not to disclose any details of the settlement deal, including any financial payments. Since the case was filed last year, two defendants have filed for bankruptcy.

Reached for comment, Saniefar said she was prohibited from speaking about the case. Moore did not respond to requests for comment prior to the Voice's press deadline Wednesday afternoon.

Comments

Who got sued?
Registered user
Sylvan Park
on Nov 26, 2019 at 9:47 am
Who got sued?, Sylvan Park
Registered user
on Nov 26, 2019 at 9:47 am
10 people like this

What is the name of each defendant in the RICO lawsuit? The "Moore Law Firm" was a disposable legal entity. If you look up the case on the federal case information website called PACER, you will find the defendants' names. Many should be attorneys. You name only Tanya Moore in the article. Also check the status online of cases these lawyers have filed in federal court. They may have settled or dismissed those cases. Then, look up each defendant-attorney on the State Bar website and report the status of each in a follow-up article. Attorneys who sued other attorneys for running a criminal enterprise were required to report the attorney-defendants to the State Bar - not just shake down the defendants for money!


Who got sued?
Registered user
Sylvan Park
on Nov 26, 2019 at 10:18 am
Who got sued?, Sylvan Park
Registered user
on Nov 26, 2019 at 10:18 am
10 people like this

Looking up the one lawyer-defendant named in the article TANYA MOORE on the State Bar website, I see no state bar case ever filed against her. Something is not right.


protect the mobility impaired
Monta Loma
on Nov 26, 2019 at 1:44 pm
protect the mobility impaired, Monta Loma
on Nov 26, 2019 at 1:44 pm
8 people like this

> to shake down small businesses

Without lawyers looking out for property owners who break the law (and have had decades to comply with the law) who will force compliance with the ADA?

All these boomers that used to shake their fists at this firm now are trying to navigate small businesses while using their walkers or chairs.... makes more sense now, no?


Please read up on the subject
Old Mountain View
on Nov 26, 2019 at 4:40 pm
Please read up on the subject, Old Mountain View
on Nov 26, 2019 at 4:40 pm
23 people like this

The "California ADA shakedown-lawsuit" industry, consisting of only five or so firms, has nothing -- NOTHING -- to do with forcing real ADA compliance ("injunctive relief"). That already is in Federal law.

California'a special provision permits collecting a bounty even if the business was prepared to remedy the actual problem anyway -- or if the problem caused no real hindrance to access, but was a purely technical, letter-of-the-law violation. This has given rise to a handful of parasitic firms that employ "professional plaintiffs" who make sweeps through target neighborhoods; visit retail small businesses they never entered before or since; search for what often are obscure, technical violations that never actually inconvenienced any real disabled customer; then file California ADA lawsuits -- hundreds of them from each firm -- fully expecting that most small businesses will cave in and pay a substantial settlement, rather than spend the money defending a court case with the risk of paying a larger statutory bounty at the end. Many of these businesses have their own longtime disabled customers who never have had a complaint. In the case of Ava's and Omelette House in downtown Mountain View, one of the alleged violations was because of a requirement the City mandates in new retail businesses.

In other words it is legalized extortion, and widely understood as such (including by advocates for disabled Californians). This is widely acknowledged in Sacramento, and there is momentum for changing the state law to end this nonsense, so destructive to many communities and small businesses (these shakedowns go after family businesses, not big corporations) and of little or no actual benefit to people with disabilities.


Please read up on the subject
Old Mountain View
on Nov 26, 2019 at 4:56 pm
Please read up on the subject, Old Mountain View
on Nov 26, 2019 at 4:56 pm
13 people like this

The article's list of beloved businesses damaged by these lawsuits omitted to include Barron Park Plumbing Supply, an independent, legendarily helpful, longtime peninsula institution that had lately moved to our neighborhood, but was forced to close for good a year or so ago, reportedly by yet another ADA shakedown lawsuit.


protect the mobility impaired
Monta Loma
on Nov 26, 2019 at 7:02 pm
protect the mobility impaired, Monta Loma
on Nov 26, 2019 at 7:02 pm
4 people like this

> of little or no actual benefit to people with disabilities

Unless it's a case of access, etc.. Seems the real culprits are the property owners who refuse to upgrade the property they rent at enormous profit to small businesses. The business gets sued, may be on the edge of profitability, and chooses to move or quit. The slumlord just rents to someone else.

Fix the damn bathrooms!

So... who will force compliance with the ADA?


RICO is for organized crime
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Nov 27, 2019 at 6:00 am
RICO is for organized crime, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Nov 27, 2019 at 6:00 am
94 people like this

These scumbags will just get rid of all the past evidence they were afraid to have to come up with at trial, and then reorganize.


DoctorData
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Nov 27, 2019 at 11:38 am
DoctorData, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Nov 27, 2019 at 11:38 am
12 people like this

I'm taking bets on "protect the mobility impaired" being a Tanya Moore astroturf account.


protect the mobility impaired
Monta Loma
on Nov 27, 2019 at 1:22 pm
protect the mobility impaired, Monta Loma
on Nov 27, 2019 at 1:22 pm
4 people like this

> I'm taking bets on "protect the mobility impaired" being a Tanya Moore astroturf account.

And I'm taking bets that you're a bot for a property owner who is too cheap/greedy to help his small business tenants by following accepted law and provide accessibility to all.


Waldo
Registered user
Waverly Park
on Nov 27, 2019 at 1:29 pm
Waldo, Waverly Park
Registered user
on Nov 27, 2019 at 1:29 pm
85 people like this

I would like to see Tanya Moore and other lawyers in the same vein disbarred, along with any appropriate fines or even jail time. The settlement agreement is a disappointment.


protect the mobility impaired
Monta Loma
on Nov 27, 2019 at 4:35 pm
protect the mobility impaired, Monta Loma
on Nov 27, 2019 at 4:35 pm
14 people like this

> I would like to see Tanya Moore and other lawyers

Sure.

But... who will force compliance with the ADA?


Bottomfeeder Moore is NOT protecting the disabled!
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Nov 27, 2019 at 4:49 pm
Bottomfeeder Moore is NOT protecting the disabled!, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Nov 27, 2019 at 4:49 pm
14 people like this

For those of you accusing the businesses of shirking their responsiblity PLEASE NOTE, this bottom feeder, Tanya Moore and her so-called law firm, only preyed upon small businesses, the so-called "drive-by" lawsuits have seized on asphalt cracks, table heights and faded parking lines to threaten large violation fees. In most cases, the business owners agree to pay out-of-court settlements to avoid the legal cost of defending themselves, and in some situations that puts them out of business. I applaud Ms Saniefar for going after Moore and her predatory practices. Moore should be disbarred AND should do jail time.


Please read up on the subject
Old Mountain View
on Nov 27, 2019 at 5:07 pm
Please read up on the subject, Old Mountain View
on Nov 27, 2019 at 5:07 pm
9 people like this

DoctorData, thanks for pointing out that possibility. It makes good sense.

The history of past articles related to ADA-shakedown lawsuits is that once readers understand what these lawsuits actually entail, no one defends them.

Adequate mechanisms exist to enforce ADA access requirements in small businesses without this opportunism angle -- in fact, small business owners around here are eager to correct such issues if pointed out. Michele Bernal at Blossom True Value Hardware (another business shaken down) is only one of many owners to mention that they have regular disabled customers, and no history of anyone being actually inconvenienced: Web Link

This RICO case developed after a shaken-down Central-Valley restaurant owner actually fought the initial shakedown in court (which is rare), hiring a private investigator. The Moore firm's evidence in the case (the firm used a relative as its professional plaintiff then) included bogus claims, even to the reality of the plaintiff's disability. The restaurant owner's daughter, an attorney, decided there were grounds for suing the Moore firm under RICO laws (typically used against organized crime) and that's what just resolved. The more such RICO actions the better, IMO, until the shakedowns can be stopped permanently by revising California law.


protect the mobility impaired
Monta Loma
on Nov 27, 2019 at 6:40 pm
protect the mobility impaired, Monta Loma
on Nov 27, 2019 at 6:40 pm
Like this comment

> For those of you accusing the businesses of shirking their responsiblity PLEASE NOTE

Please note ... that your reply does not address: "the businesses / shirking their responsiblity..."

> Adequate mechanisms exist to enforce ADA access requirements in small businesses without this opportunism angle -- in fact, small business owners around here are eager to correct such issues if pointed out.

If either of those were true, then the shysters would have no one to target.

Without the lawyers, any number of scofflaws will/would continue to ignore the law.

So... who will force compliance with the ADA?


get off of your soapbox
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Nov 27, 2019 at 6:58 pm
get off of your soapbox, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Nov 27, 2019 at 6:58 pm
8 people like this

@protect the mobility impaired - If you are going to make accusations use your REAL NAME, possibly Tanya Moore or one of her associates?


protect the mobility impaired
Monta Loma
on Nov 27, 2019 at 7:06 pm
protect the mobility impaired, Monta Loma
on Nov 27, 2019 at 7:06 pm
8 people like this

> If you are going to make accusations use your REAL NAME, possibly Tanya Moore or one of her associates?

Says the anonymous poster. And what accusation have I made? Reality is that a lot of buildings have not been upgraded to a decades old law (okay, I did accuse the property owners of being greedy cheapskates, but no one seems too offended by that...)

If this or other shysters don't hold scofflaws to account, then who will?


Who got sued?
Registered user
Sylvan Park
on Nov 27, 2019 at 7:53 pm
Who got sued?, Sylvan Park
Registered user
on Nov 27, 2019 at 7:53 pm
3 people like this

If you think Tanya Moore and her attorney associates should be investigated by the State Bar, send the Bar the complaint in the RICO case and identify the attorneys and the rules of professional conduct they have violated. Without a report from someone, the State Bar is not going to investigate them.


@protect the mobility impaired
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Nov 28, 2019 at 8:43 pm
@protect the mobility impaired, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Nov 28, 2019 at 8:43 pm
4 people like this

The REALITY is, that Tanya Moore does NOT go after wealthy property owners, she goes after small business owners operating on very thing margins knowing full well that they will be FORCED to settle or go out of business. She is a bottomfeeder, suggest you read the FACTS Web Link

Excerpt...
"the allegations made by the Moore firm fell apart, Saniefar said. The plaintiff in the case -- Randy Moore's brother, Ronald Moore -- asserted in a court declaration that he was disabled and needed a wheelchair or cane for mobility. He testified that in 2014 he found himself trapped in a non-complaint restroom at the Saniefar family's restaurant, hollering for help.

Saniefar said that account is hogwash. From their investigation, she said they were able to get video evidence of Ronald Moore WALKING ON HIS OWN without any aid. She believes that Moore never actually visited her father's restaurant. A federal judge ended up dismissing the case last year, but by that point her family's restaurant had closed and her FATHER HAD DIED. Running the restaurant was more of a hobby for her father, but she said this lawsuit "took the joy out of it for him."

Stop trolling for Moore.


Keltic. values
The Crossings
on Nov 29, 2019 at 8:00 am
Keltic. values, The Crossings
on Nov 29, 2019 at 8:00 am
Like this comment

"Stop trolling for Moore"

Poster called her a shyster. How is that trolling FOR the crook?

Why are you all defending property and/or business owners who refuse to obey a twenty-year-old law protecting access for disabled American?


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