Photo: KSTP/ File
Photo: KSTP/ File
December 29, 2016 01:13 PM
A Minneapolis attorney whose license was previously suspended is now being investigated by the FBI for the way he filed disability-access lawsuits.
Thirty-five-year-old Paul Hansmeier was indicted earlier this month, charged with conspiring to extort $6 million from thousands of people through "porn trolling" lawsuits.
After his practices were determined to be unethical and deceptive by the state's supreme court, Hansmeier began seeking settlement cases on behalf of non-profit groups, like the Disability Support Alliance.
Jennifer Urban, an attorney for the DSA, stated she was contacted by the FBI in October and was informed that the DSA was the possible victim of a crime, carried out by Hansmeier and other individuals within the nonprofit.
According to a district court filing, the DSA began noticing cash withdrawals from January through February 2016 from an ATM in Burnsville. A police report was filed and an investigation revealed that the DSA's then-finance director Scott Smith had made 35 withdrawals totaling $6,900. A $4,400 cash withdrawal from a bank in Lakeville was also made in February by Aaron Dalton, a then-director/officer at the DSA.
After examining the DSA's bank account to determine legitimacy of transactions, investigators discovered Smith, Dalton and two other DSA officials were using the nonprofit's bank account as a personal account and source of funds, the filing states.
The filing also claims the four stole settlement proceeds from litigation efforts by the DSA, with Hansmeier's help.
According to the filing, Hansmeier also transferred approximately $304,718 from a trust account established by the DSA for litigation proceeds. He also took an additional $7,500 of client money. Those withdrawals were made despite "the retainer agreement, lack of invoicing, and non-existent settlement agreements," according to the filing. The withdrawals took place between July 2014 and June 2016, the filing states.
In the filing, Urban states that it "could not be clearer" that Hansmeier and the four DSA officials at the time "have been personally benefiting at DSA's expense - systematically and criminally."
In light of the FBI investigation, Hansmeier could now face further indictments for his actions.
In an email to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, Hansmeier declined to comment on the investigation.