USDOJ: Award winning Roundup plaintiffs' attorney arrested in extortion scheme
The United States Department of Justice said in a press release on December 17, 2019, attorney Timothy Litzenburg, 37, of Charlottesville, VA, was charged in a criminal complaint with transmitting interstate communications with intent to extort, attempted extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion and transmit interstate communications with intent to extort.
Litzenburg was arrested this morning and appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel C. Hoppe of the Western District of Virginia. Litzenburg was released on bail.
According to Litzenburg's law firm website, Litzenburg "represented the plaintiff who won a $289 million verdict against Monsanto in August 2018 (the jury’s verdict was later reduced to $78 million by the presiding judge). In addition to successfully representing that plaintiff throughout the entire course of the case, he was one of the trial attorneys who handled the two-month trial that culminated in the $289 million verdict. Mr. Litzenburg, along with his colleagues, recently accepted the honor of Trial Team of the Year by the National Trial Lawyers association for their success in Dewayne 'Lee' Johnson v. Monsanto."
The criminal complaint alleges in approximately October 2019, Litzenburg approached a company (Company 1) and threatened to make public statements alleging that Company 1 had significant civil liability for manufacturing a purportedly harmful chemical used in a common household product used to kill weeds. Litzenburg allegedly also said that after making these statements, he would use media and other means to find plaintiffs to sue Company 1. Litzenburg allegedly threatened that he would only refrain from any such public actions if Company 1 (and its parent company) paid Litzenburg and his associates $200 million in “consulting fees.” In exchange for the $200 million, Litzenburg allegedly indicated that he would not tell any existing or future clients about Company 1 or its purported role in manufacturing the product. Litzenburg also allegedly made clear that the $200 million would not be a settlement for any clients, but rather would be a payment for Litzenburg and his associates.
Litzenburg allegedly communicated his extortionate demands by telephone and email and during an in-person meeting. During the in-person meeting, Litzenburg allegedly threatened that he and his law associates would be Company 1’s “biggest problem” unless they received the $200 million payment, and that the public disclosure of the purportedly damaging information about Company 1 would cause a “40 percent stock loss,” and “public relations nightmare” for Company 1’s publicly traded parent company.
During other communications with Company 1, Litzenburg allegedly told Company 1 that if he received the $200 million in “consulting fees,” he was willing to “take a dive” during a civil deposition of a Company 1 toxicologist to prevent any of his purported current clients or prospective future plaintiffs from suing Company 1.
A criminal complaint is merely an allegation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The USPIS is investigating the case. Assistant Chief L. Rush Atkinson and Principal Assistant Chief Henry P. Van Dyck of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.
READ THE FULL CRIMINAL COMPLAINT AT THIS LINK ON THE USDOJ SITE.
READ THE PRESS RELEASE FROM THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE HERE.