The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland announced on October 5, 2020 that a federal grand jury has indicted Stephen L. Snyder, age 72, on federal charges of attempted extortion and interstate travel and use of an interstate facility to carry on unlawful activity, also known as the Travel Act. Snyder was the senior partner at a Baltimore-based law firm specializing in plaintiff-side medical malpractice litigation, and now resides in Miami Beach, Florida.
The eight-count indictment charges that between January and October 2018, Snyder attempted to obtain $25 million from the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) for himself, separate and apart from any claim by one of his clients, by using threats of economic and reputational harm to UMMS and its organ transplant program. Specifically, the indictment alleges that Snyder threatened that if UMMS did not pay him $25 million, Snyder would launch a public relations campaign against UMMS that alleged, among other things, that UMMS transplanted diseased organs into unsophisticated patients without informing them of the quality of the organs they were receiving in order to generate revenue. According to the indictment, Snyder told UMMS officials that the campaign would include: a front-page article in the Baltimore Sun; other national news stories; a press conference; advertisements on the Internet, including one that would run every time someone accessed the UMMS transplant site; and at least two videos Snyder produced and would air if his demand for a $25 million payment were not met.
As detailed in the indictment, Snyder represented the spouse of a transplant patient who had died. During a settlement conference that included a UMMS lawyer and a UMMS doctor, Snyder demanded a $25 million settlement for his client. In a later meeting, Snyder allegedly told UMMS representatives, including the lawyer and doctor, that the client’s case was “not worth that much money” and that the client’s case was worth between $3 and $5 million. Snyder confirmed several times that the $25 million would be a payment made just to him and would be in addition to the payment made to the client’s spouse to settle her case. When asked what he could do for $25 million, he allegedly told the UMMS representatives that he didn’t know, didn’t care, and could be “a janitor” at UMMS.
Snyder allegedly demanded that UMMS disguise the $25 million payment as a sham consulting arrangement between Snyder and UMMS. Snyder also allegedly threatened that the lawyer working for the insurance program insuring UMMS and its faculty physician groups would lose her job and threatened to harm the professional reputation of the UMMS doctor if they did not aid Snyder in obtaining the $25 million payment.
If convicted, Snyder faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for extortion and for each of seven counts of violating the Travel Act. Snyder is expected to have an initial appearance in the U.S. District Court in Baltimore, although no date has been scheduled.
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