Cesar Ornelas Funeral Home Scam

The Albuquerque Journal has reported that Texas Attorney Cesar Ornelas II has been involved in paying secret kickbacks to funeral directors for referring wrongful death cases for his law firm. This is illegal; it’s a crime called barratry.

Read the full article about Cesar Ornelas’ barratry.

You can also read a story that Texas Lawyer recently published about Ornelas and the lawsuits filed against him.

Any client who signed a contract with Cesar Ornelas II may have a claim to terminate their contract and get a refund of their Attorney’s fees. Ornelas II has referred the cases to other lawyers to do the actual work on the cases, and those lawyers may have to refund attorneys fees to those clients. You can read more about Barratry and Fee Refund Claims here.

About a year ago, we began to notice that several of our new clients had been approached by various people before they hired us. We noticed a trend: many of these clients who had been solicited were solicited by the same lawyer: Cesar Ornelas II.

At Glasheen, Valles & Inderman, we believe that the practice of law is an honorable one and that anyone with a law license should be held to the highest ethical standards. The ethical rules that govern the practice of law require us to report other lawyers’ ethical violations.

Wanting to put an end to this unethical and illegal practice, we began to investigate Ornelas II. Below are some of the results of that investigation.

Ornelas Background

Cesar Ornelas II is a San Antonio-based attorney with a law degree from St. Mary’s Law School. He has been licensed in Texas since November of 2016. On his website, he claims to have offices in San Antonio, El Paso, Laredo, Midland, Albuquerque, and Carlsbad, though he is not licensed in New Mexico.

Ornelas II’s father—also named Cesar Ornelas—owns funeral homes in Texas in Victoria, Port Lavaca, Los Fresnos, and other locations, which he operates under the name Angel Lucy’s Funeral Homes. Ornelas Senior started a legal marketing business called Group of Legal Specialties, LLC, which pays illegal commissions to funeral directors for referring cases to his son’s law firm.

The Scheme

If somebody comes to a funeral home after a loved one was killed in an accident like a truck wreck or a work injury, the funeral director will tell the family that they know somebody who can pay for the funeral. Then, the funeral director puts the family in touch with Cesar Ornelas II, who will pay for the funeral if the family hires his law firm. If the case turns out well, then Ornelas II pays the funeral home a commission up to $100,000.00.

Is it Legal?

Lawyer Paying for Client’s Funeral:
Texas – OK
New Mexico – Illegal

Lawyer Paying Non-Lawyers (e.g. Funeral Directors) for Referring Cases:
Texas – Illegal
New Mexico – Illegal

Some of the funeral homes who have participated in the scheme include the following:

  • Perches Funeral Home and the affiliated La Paz Funeral Homes in El Paso,
  • Riverside Funeral Home in Albuquerque, New Mexico,
  • Lewallen-Garcia-Pipkin Funeral Home in Midland, Texas,
  • The Rivera Funeral Home in Espanola, Texas, and
  • Cavalry Funeral Home in Hobbs, New Mexico

Cesar Ornelas II and his father even handed out a brochure at the New Mexico Funeral Director’s Association annual convention in Albuquerque, in March of 2018.

Read a full copy of Cesar Ornelas’ brochure.

Case Runners Illegally Soliciting New Client

Ornelas II also employs case runners, who make uninvited contact with accident victims and their families. These include Victor Chavez in El Paso, Veronica Reyes in Hobbs, New Mexico, and Sally Diaz in Midland, TX. These case runners monitor the news for a truck wreck or a work injury that might be a good case, then they go to the victim’s homes or the hospital and try to strike up a conversation with the victim’s family. Their business cards state that they do “Business Development” for the Cesar Ornelas II Law Firm.

Cesar Ornelas (Sr) Business Card Cesar Ornelas (Sr) Business CardMike McCoy Business Card Mike McCoy Business CardVeronica Reyes Business Card Veronica Reyes Business Card

It is illegal for lawyers to make uninvited contact with accident victims and their families for the purpose of getting hired on a case. It is also illegal to pay non-lawyers money for referring cases. This is a crime in both Texas and New Mexico called “barratry,” and engaging in such conduct is unethical and can lead to the State Bar revoking a lawyer’s license.

Is it Legal?

Making Uninvited Contact With Victims:
Texas – Illegal
New Mexico – Illegal

Ornelas Refers the Cases Out to Other Lawyers

When Ornelas II successfully solicits cases, he usually refers them to other lawyers and gets a referral fee of up to 50%. He has referred cases to firms including Perry Zively, Jr. of Chandler Mathis Zively in Houston and Liles & White, PLLC in Corpus Christi, the latter of whom Ornelas II’s website listed as “of counsel” for Ornelas II’s cases in New Mexico until it was removed around April 23, 2019. The cases solicited by Ornelas II have been filed in Texas and New Mexico.

It is unethical for a lawyer to advertise results if they are misleading. One example of misleading advertising is advertising the results of a case that the lawyer referred to another lawyer. Online Ornelas II advertises results including:

  • A $20 million settlement for a truck wreck death and injury case,
  • A $5.95 million settlement for an 18-wheeler death case, and
  • A$4.675 million-dollar settlement for a car wreck death case.

Ornelas II also posted a billboard in Odessa and El Paso in spring 2019 claiming a $20 million-dollar settlement.

Ceasar Ornelas Billboard

Report Solicitation Now!

If you hired Ornelas II or any lawyer who solicited your case illegally, you may be able to terminate your contract, and may even be entitled to a refund of your attorney’s fees. You can find out more by contacting us below.