Houston attorneys' photos used in fake law firm website scheme

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Houston-area attorneys want to know how their pictures were obtained and used in a scheme to defraud elderly people.

The Houston Bar Association has filed a civil lawsuit in Harris County to get the website for "Walsh & Padilla" removed, because according to court documents, it's a fictitious law firm.

Houston attorney Curt Langley's picture was taken from the site for his law firm, Jackson Walker LLP, and used to build the "Walsh & Padilla" website. The name below Langley's picture reads, "Jonathan Walsh."

"It's unsettling to think someone is using your image, especially when you find out they're doing it to defraud people," said Langley. 

Someone has been sending letters and emails to elderly people in the United States and Canada, claiming to be "Jonathan Walsh" of "Walsh & Padilla" and promising a large sum of money from a life insurance policy if they submit their personal information, according to the civil lawsuit.

"If they were doing that by telephone and obtaining that information, it might be really hard to track down," added Langley. 

According to the "Walsh & Padilla" website, the law firm is located at 11 Greenway Plaza, Suite 1401 in Houston. That address doesn't exist.

In the lawsuit, the Houston Bar Association writes no such law firm exists and the names of several attorneys listed as employees of "Walsh & Padilla" are fake as well. However, all of the people pictured are real attorneys in Houston and Los Angeles. Their names were changed on the "Walsh & Padilla" site. The lawsuit also notes, the "Walsh & Padilla" website is a carbon copy of the acutal website for real Houston-based firm Hayes & Wilson.

William Hayes of Hayes & Wilson, says his firm started getting emails and calls from people who were suspicious of the letter and did their own research. They determined his real firm's website had been duplicated

“It's not the website itself that's being used," said Hayes. "That's being used as a backstop or a background camouflage for the emails and letters that they're sending out to people that gives them a look of legitimacy."

Langley also learned his face was a part of the scheme when a potential victim contacted him after doing a reverse Google image search

“You feel violated," explained Hayes. "You feel like someone's taking advantage when they shouldn't. You're hoping not too many people are falling for this scam.”

A Harris County judge has granted a temporary injunction to have the website removed. Based on research by Hayes & Wilson, the domain hosting company for the fake "Walsh & Padilla" firm website is based in South Africa.

So far, one Canadian woman claims to have been defrauded out of $14,000 because of the scheme.

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