Baltimore Attorney Facing Federal Indictment for Attempted Extortion
Allegedly Sought to Extort $25 Million For Himself—Not his Clients—from University of Maryland Medical System; Allegedly Proposed Sham Consulting Arrangement to Disguise Payment
Baltimore, Maryland – A federal grand jury has indicted Stephen L. Snyder, age 72, of Miami Beach, Florida, on the federal charges of attempted extortion and interstate travel and use of an interstate facility to carry on unlawful activity, also known as the Travel Act. Snyder was the senior partner at a Baltimore-based law firm specializing in plaintiff-side medical malpractice litigation.
The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur and Special Agent in Charge Jennifer C. Boone of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office.
According to the eight-count indictment, between January and October 2018, Snyder attempted to obtain $25 million from the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) for himself, separate and apart from any claim by one of his clients, by using threats of economic and reputational harm to UMMS and its organ transplant program. Specifically, the indictment alleges that Snyder threatened that if UMMS did not pay him $25 million, Snyder would launch a public relations campaign against UMMS that alleged, among other things, that UMMS transplanted diseased organs into unsophisticated patients without informing them of the quality of the organs they were receiving in order to generate revenue. According to the indictment, Snyder told UMMS officials that the campaign would include: a front-page article in the Baltimore Sun; other national news stories; a press conference; advertisements on the Internet, including one that would run every time someone accessed the UMMS transplant site; and at least two videos Snyder produced and would air if his demand for a $25 million payment were not met.
Snyder allegedly demanded that UMMS disguise the $25 million payment as a sham consulting arrangement between Snyder and UMMS. Snyder also allegedly threatened that a lawyer (Lawyer 1) working for the insurance program insuring UMMS and its faculty physician groups would lose her job and threatened to harm the professional reputation of a UMMS doctor (Doctor 1) if they did not aid Snyder in obtaining the $25 million payment.
As detailed in the indictment, Snyder represented the spouse of a transplant patient who had died (Client 2). During a settlement conference that included the lawyer and doctor mentioned above, Snyder demanded a $25 million settlement for his client. In a later meeting, Snyder allegedly told UMMS representatives, including Lawyer 1 and Doctor 1, that the Client 2 case was “not worth that much money” and that Client 2’s case was worth between $3 and $5 million. Snyder confirmed several times that the $25 million would be a payment made just to him and would be in addition to the payment made to Client 2’s spouse to settle her case. When asked what he could do for $25 million, he told the UMMS representatives that he didn’t know, didn’t care, and could be “a janitor” at UMMS.
During both meetings, Snyder allegedly played videos that he had produced and said he would air if his demands were not met. The first video claimed that UMMS did not tell patients that organs UMMS transplanted were bad organs or that they accepted organs that other institutions rejected. The commercial said that Client 2 was told by the surgeon that transplanted his kidney that the surgeon would have transplanted the same organ into his own wife but wasn’t told that 250 other institutions had rejected the same kidney. The video showed images of Client 2 with necrotic fingertips and an amputated leg. The second video started with the words, in red, “PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT” as well as an alert sound associated with emergency alerts. It then showed a text that Doctor 1 had sent Snyder on April 20, 2018, that read: “Sue and I just spoke. She understands on hook for fraud and punitive damages. Ball is in your court.” The video then showed pictures of several doctors which the video claimed had left UMMS or had been demoted and were no longer performing surgery. Doctor 1 was pictured with the words: “DEMOTED NO LONGER DOING SURGERY – relegated to executive work” next to his picture. After UMMS representatives advised Snyder that the video contained inaccuracies, such as the fact that the doctor had not been demoted and was still performing surgeries, Snyder responded, “then I’m wrong.”
If convicted, Snyder faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for extortion and for each of seven counts of violating the Travel Act. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. Snyder is expected to have an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, although no date has been scheduled.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the FBI for its work in the investigation. Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Leo J. Wise and Matthew J. Phelps, who are prosecuting the case.
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