gavelIn June, we wrote about a Houston plaintiffs attorney and two former Hartford insurance company employees who were indicted in connection with an alleged kickback scheme that involved millions of dollars in settlement proceeds from silicosis cases.

Now, in this detail-laden cross-claim filed last week, plaintiffs attorney Warren Todd Hoeffner tells his side of the story. He paints himself as the victim of numerous alleged extortion threats by Rachel Rossow, one of the indicted former Hartford employees.

Here’s the background: According to the DOJ, in 2002, Hoeffner settled silicosis lawsuits with The Hartford for $34 million, but as part of the deal, the attorney paid more than $3 million in kickbacks to two then-Hartford claims managers. Hoeffner, who collected $5.3 million in legal fees, also allegedly bought a new BMW for each of the Hartford employees.

Following the indictment, some of Hoeffner’s former silicosis clients brought a civil suit against the attorney and the Hartford, claiming negligence and breach of fiduciary duty in connection with the alleged kickback scheme.

Hoeffner cross-claimed, saying that he was the victim of extortion.

In August 2002, according to his filing, Rossow allegedly told Hoeffner that she was the “lover” of a then senior claims executive at the Hartford and that the executive had the power to “kill” any settlements. Hoeffner claims he later met with Rossow in Florida and Colorado, where she allegedly made further extortion demands.

Out of fear that the proposed settlements would fall apart, Hoeffner alleges, he bought Rossow a car and sent her a series of payments, one totaling $1.675 million.

Hoeffner’s attorney Chris Flood acknowledges that it’s “extremely unusual,” for a criminal defendant to lay out what is, in effect, his defense in a civil filing. “Because we were sued,” he says, “we were forced to defend ourselves and we stand by all the allegations in the cross claim.”

Rossow’s attorney, Dan Cogdell, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. According to a Hartford Courant report on the case, a spokeswoman for the company said “The company took quick and decisive action upon learning of the conduct alleged in the government’s indictment. We contacted federal authorities and have been providing them with assistance every step of the way.”