2021 | Courts

Three face charges over Chevy Chase company’s acquisition of lead poisoning settlements

Attorney general’s office says company paid victims fraction of money they were owed

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Maryland’s attorney general has obtained criminal indictments against three men accused of making money as a Chevy Chase company obtained long-term settlements from victims of lead poisoning.

The men are accused of collectively giving the victims lump-sum payout equal to less than one-third of the estimated full value of the settlements.

Raffi Boghosian, 43, of Rockville; Charles Edward Smith Jr., 43, of Rockville; and Anuj Sud, 43, of Laurel, each face one count of theft scheme over $100,000 and one count of conspiracy to commit theft scheme of over $100,000.

Boghosian and Smith could not be reached for comment Tuesday. When a reporter tried to call Sud, the number was disconnected. Attorneys for the three men were not listed in the state’s court case database as of Tuesday evening.

Attorney General Brian Frosh’s office said in a press release that the men were connected to a company called Access Funding as it acquired structured settlement payments valued at more than $21 million, belonging to 95 people.

Access Funding gave the owners of those settlements less than $7 million through lump-sum payments, according to Frosh’s office. In some cases, the payments “were as little as 8% of the present-day value of the payment rights,” the press release said.

Additionally, Frosh’s office said Boghosian, Smith and Sud prevented the 95 payment owners from getting legally required independent professional advice and made false statements about the advice to persuade a court to approve the transfer of rights.

The Washington Post reported in 2019 that Access Funding of Chevy Chase made deals between 2013 and 2015 in which it acquired nearly $18 million in rights to settlements — mostly with people who were victims of childhood lead poisoning.

As of 2019, Access Funding had changed its name to Reliance Funding, the Post reported. State business records list the same Chevy Chase address for each during different time periods.

Records indicate that Access Funding forfeited its business registration in 2018, and Reliance Funding forfeited its status in 2020. When a reporter called a phone number listed for Reliance Funding on Tuesday, a voice-mail message stated that the phone number was for Realty Network Inc., a real estate company.

Settlements are structured to give plaintiffs small amounts over decades, so they don’t spend all of the money at once, the Post reported.

The Post story says Boghosian was one of three people who founded Access Funding in 2012 and Sud was Access Funding’s lawyer.

Smith was a Maryland lawyer who oversaw many of Access Funding’s deals as a purported “independent professional,” even though he had close ties to Boghosian, the Post reported. Maryland law requires that an independent professional adviser review a sale of a structured settlement before it is reviewed by a county judge.

Boghosian, Smith and Sud are scheduled to be arraigned in Baltimore City on Jan. 6.

When asked by Bethesda Beat on Tuesday why other Access Funding employees weren’t also indicted, Raquel Coombs, a spokeswoman for Frosh, declined to comment.

Coombs added that a previous lawsuit by Frosh against Access Funding on behalf of some of the victims remains ongoing.