Longform

High Trauma

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In the mid-1990s, Moskal was a rising poobah among personal-injury lawyers, celebrated in the pages of Minnesota Law & Politics as one of a select group of "Tort Kings." A hardworking member of a large Minneapolis firm, he ingratiated himself with chiropractors and doctors, mowed clients' lawns and touted his staunch Christianity to build his caseload into a multimillion-dollar bonanza. He made partner by the time he was 33, and soon had all the usual perks: a house with a pool, a condo in Steamboat Springs, a lakefront cabin in a resort area, hefty alimony payments and a jewelry-bedecked second wife.

His criminal career was even more impressive. Over a period of five years, Moskal stole $2.4 million from his clients' settlements, other attorneys and his own law firm. The victims, one court later noted, included a mentally retarded accident victim, another who'd had a stroke, "at least eight minors, eight deceased persons, twelve people over the age of sixty, two clients who were either HIV-positive or dying of AIDS, and one homeless person."

When the thefts came to light, Moskal was fired, disbarred and indicted. He blamed clinical depression for his behavior and pleaded guilty in federal court to three counts of fraud. Ordered to pay restitution, in the weeks leading up to his sentencing he instead went on an $85,000 spending spree; the judge slapped an extra year on what was already a five-year sentence.

In 2003, halfway into his sentence, Moskal was placed on supervised release. He moved to Colorado and worked at the Lawyer Connection for a few months. But several clients and at least one attorney who had contact with him were under the impression that he worked for the Mintz Law Firm. Some even had the impression that he was an attorney. One filing in the lawsuit claims that Moskal "developed insidious relationships with certain staff members and contract employees at the Mintz law firm" at a time when the Lawyer Connection was housed in the same building.

Janice Martinez says that she and her mother dealt more with Moskal than with David Mintz, and that it was Moskal who promised to get them a certain amount in the settlement negotiations. "We never actually touched base with David Mintz," she says. "I didn't get a good picture of him until we met with him and Richard Levine to discuss the lawsuit."

It wasn't until that day that she learned Moskal wasn't a lawyer at all. "I felt we were violated," she says. "I think Mr. Mintz needs to be a little more responsible about the actions that went on in his law firm."

Mintz says payroll records show that Moskal only worked for the Lawyer Connection for a short period of time in 2003, rather than the eighteen months Moskal claims in a sworn affidavit. He then worked for an advertising firm started by Jay Schuetzle that did business with both Mintz and Spine and Injury Centers. Moskal was supposed to screen calls and "act as a liaison with the client," Mintz says; when he discovered that some clients were confused about Moskal's role and whom he worked for, he stopped using Schuetzle's company.

In the spring of 2005, Moskal started working directly for Ramos and Nadler as the marketing director of the Mile High Medical Group. A few months later, documents surfaced in the possession of Ramos's attorneys that reflected confidential settlement amounts Mintz had negotiated on behalf of three clients who were also Spine and Injury Center patients. Attorneys for Mintz and the clients were livid, and Moskal was promptly accused of being the likely source of the documents. Moskal has denied stealing documents from Mintz's office and maintains that the materials "were sent anonymously by mail to Dr. Joseph Ramos."

Moskal has continued to have an impact on the dispute in other ways. In late 2005, Raymond Callicoat, a Mintz client who'd been treaded by Nadler, tried to negotiate his own peace with the doctors in order to free up the funds still in Mintz's trust account. Unemployed and homeless, Callicoat was desperate for money, but Mintz had advised him that he was still awaiting billing documents from Nadler before he could disburse the rest of the settlement.

According to Callicoat's affidavit, he got confusing information from the medical providers about what he still owed. He told Ramos he could get a check from Mintz for the balance of the settlement if they could work out a figure. A few minutes later, Callicoat got a call from David Moskal, identifying himself as Ramos's attorney. "He said they would accept payment of my bills for 75% of the check from Mr. Mintz and give me 25%, " Callicoat said, "but only if I would sign an affidavit accusing Mr. Mintz of all sorts of things."

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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast

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