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Former Legal Tech Founder Sentenced To Seven Years In Prison For Fraud, Forgery


Between 2016 and 2018, I wrote a series of posts about Derek Bluford, a one-time rising star on the authorized tech start-up scene whose star fell after I reported in 2016 of his settlement of a lawsuit charging him with impersonating a lawyer, forging authorized paperwork and fraudulently swindling two purchasers.

Now, Bluford has been sentenced to seven years in jail on fees associated with these forgeries and fraud.

On Thursday, Phillip A. Talbert, performing U.S. lawyer for the Eastern District of California, stated that Bluford, 34, was sentenced for wire fraud, cash laundering, obstruction of a federal investigation, and making false statements.

When I first wrote about Bluford, he had been slated to be featured two weeks later at a Legaltech West Coast program on authorized innovation. Just 28 years outdated on the time, he had achieved success and gained through a win accolades as an entrepreneur, first beginning California Legal Pros, an organization that marketed varied authorized providers to each customers and attorneys. then QuickLegal, a service that supplied on-demand authorized recommendation to customers, after which FastLegal Practice Management, a cloud observe administration platform for attorneys.

He had even been selected to appear on the favored ABC tv show Shark Tank, though, so far as I can inform, he by no means truly appeared on any phase that was aired.

Following my report, FastLegal shut down, however then appeared to be reincarnated in one other comparable startup known as RegulationTova. After I wrote about that firm (here and here), it too shut down. I then wrote about yet another startup that had ties to Bluford and FastLegal, which has additionally since shut down.

In 2018, a federal grand jury indicted Bluford on the costs that resulted in his sentencing final week.

Impersonated A Lawyer

My first post about Bluford in 2016 particulars the fraud, which at that time had been documented in a civil swimsuit wherein he agreed to have a judgment entered towards him of $559,330, and it associated with his firm California Legal Pros.

When a pair got here to him for assist evicting a tenant, Bluford advised them that he was a lawyer, though he was not. He then used an outrageous sequence of fabricated paperwork, made-up courtroom hearings, faux fines, and outright lies to get the couple to pay him over $500,000.

The scheme unraveled solely when the couple grew suspicious and researched the decide who had supposedly issued orders towards them, solely to search out out no such decide existed.

The day after I wrote that put up, Bluford called me and insisted that he had carried out no fallacious, however {that a} FastLegal workers member had carried out the fraud by hacking into his laptop and impersonating him.

Another Strange Turn

Last October, the story took one other weird flip, when Bluford published a book wherein he stated he grew to become an FBI informant aiding in a political corruption investigation into the previous mayor of Sacramento, Calif., Kevin Johnson, who was additionally a former star with the NBA’s Phoenix Suns.

Bluford’s ebook even talked about my 2016 put up, saying that he was about to promote his firm to LegalZoom at a valuation of $10-15 million when the lawsuit and my report on it brought on LegalZoom to again out of the deal. (LegalZoom had reached out to me in 2016 to disclaim that it was doing enterprise with Bluford or had any partnership with him.)

Soon after the ebook got here out, a New Haven, Conn., newspaper reported that Bluford in 2019 had attempted to bribe New Haven’s then-mayor, Toni Harp. It alleged that in a dinner at a ritzy steakhouse to debate a attainable contract with one other of Bluford’s firms, he handed Harp an envelope full of $7,000 in money.

Here is the entire set of my prior posts about Bluford:


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