FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: May 24, 2022
Re: Anahita Ashrafipour v. Waterdrops Express Car Wash, LLC.; Behzad Bandari, Rahim Siam, et al.
MEDIA CONTACT: Justin Hanassab, Esq. Phone: (213) 433-3570 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
LAW FIRM LEWITT HACKMAND DISQUALIFIED FROM DEFENDING WHISTLEBLOWER EMPLOYMENT LAWSUIT DUE TO IMPROPER AND UNBECOMING CONDUCT
On August 11, 2020, Anahita Ashrafipour sued Waterdrops Express Car Wash LLC (along with its owners and related entities). Ms. Ashrafipour, a former employee of Waterdrops, was discriminated, retaliated against and eventually fired for speaking out against the numerous fraudulent and unlawful practices of her employers. She is represented by lawyers from the employment law firm Miracle Mile Law Group, LLP., and Hadsell Stormer Renick & Dai, LLP.
Ms. Ashrafipour, who is a licensed insurance broker and holds a master’s degree in Accounting and Finance, witnessed Waterdrops owners Behzad Bandari and Rahim Siam Sr. repeatedly engage in various fraudulent and criminal practices, including bank fraud, bribery, insurance fraud and workers’ compensation fraud, to name only a few.
Defendants Bandari and Siam, who have since been criminally arraigned for carrying out a $3.6 million insurance fraud scheme, now face nine counts of felony insurance fraud each. Bandari and Siam are accused of severely underreporting employee payroll to reduce their workers’ compensation premiums—the very same conduct that Ms. Ashrafipour warned them to seize. Each count of felony insurance fraud carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
Ms. Ashrafipour alleges that many of these crimes were committed at the behest of Waterdrops’ longtime counsel—Lewitt Hackman.
On numerous occasions, Ms. Ashrafipour pleaded and warned her employers to put a stop to these unlawful practices. But her voice was consistently disregarded, and she was simply told to “mind her own business.”
During the course of discovery in Ms. Ashrafipour’s whistleblower lawsuit, Lewitt Hackman received an inadvertent document production containing the attorney work product of Ms. Ashrafipour’s attorneys. Lewitt Hackman was informed that this disclosure of attorney work product was inadvertent and was asked on numerous occasions to immediately destroy the documents containing the privileged information. However, in blatant disregard of its ethical obligations, Lewitt Hackman not only refused to delete the documents, but also extensively reviewed and continued to rely on privileged work product.
As a result, Ms. Ashrafipour’s attorneys filed a Motion to Disqualify Lewitt Hackman as counsel of record. In her motion, Ms. Ashrafipour’s attorneys set forth documentary evidence proving that attorney work product was inadvertently produced to Lewitt Hackman; that Lewitt Hackman plainly ignored multiple requests that the privilege information be destroyed; and that Lewitt Hackman admitted they were still using the privileged information over four months later.
Last week, Judge Michael L. Stern granted Ms. Ashrafipour’s motion and disqualified Lewitt Hackman and its attorneys from further representation of any parties in this action.
Justin Hanassab, founding partner at Miracle Mile Law Group, stated: “Lewitt Hackman’s attorneys were fully aware of their obligation to abstain from reading the privileged material and destroy it. Instead, they chose to exploit this vulnerability to acquire an unfair advantage in the litigation. Unfortunately, it is their clients who must now pay the price for the improper conduct of their counsel.”
Judge Michael L. Stern stated in his five-page ruling: “Attorney impressions are work product and it should be privileged. That opposing counsel were asked three times to destroy the documents and did not answer, especially in the face of prior acknowledgment that they received the materials and actually used them, is improper and unbecoming conduct. Counsel not only failed to conduct himself as required under the bright line holding in State Comp. but may have acted unethically.”
Miracle Mile Law Group co-founder Steven Azizi further said: “It is this sort of unbecoming conduct that threatens to undermine the integrity of the judicial process. The court’s ruling sends a clear message that such behavior will not go unnoticed or unpunished by the courts.”