CRIME

Man arrested for posing as attorney in Gonzales

Staff Reports

Troopers with the Louisiana State Police Insurance Fraud Unit last week arrested a man accused of unlawfully practicing law in Ascension Parish.

After receiving several complaints about a suspicious person who was acting as an attorney in the Gonzales area, investigators with the Office of Disciplinary Council in Baton Rouge requested help from State Police who then arrested a man they identified as 54-year-old Raymond F. Gross, a career criminal.

Police said in a release that Gross is the owner of Southern Justice Center, an alleged law firm with offices in Gonzales and Baton Rouge. He was arrested in Baton Rouge May 3, transferred to the Ascension Parish Prison, and booked on 12 counts each of felony theft and unlawful practice of law.

Investigators say they learned Gross allegedly solicited potential clients by sending flyers to local prisons and offering legal representation to inmates during parole hearings. Gross claimed that his practice focused primarily on federal appellate work and representation of prisoners before the Parole Board.

Gross added credibility to his story by claiming to have won a high-profile case regarding inmate parolees in the U.S. Supreme Court, investigators said.

Gross’ victims contacted him seeking legal services, which he agreed to provide them after agreeing on specific legal fees. Police said Gross would then receive a retainer fee for his services from each victim, but never completed any actual legal work, and often cited court delays and other problems when his clients questioned him about his cases.

State  Police investigators have identified 12 victims so far who were defrauded for a total of $60,300 in legal fees, and are still working with other potential victims of the Southern Justice Center who may have also been defrauded.

Investigators said Gross has an extensive criminal history, including violent criminal offenses in Louisiana, Texas and Florida, and he is currently on parole from both Louisiana and Texas.

Police said Gross’ criminal history began in Florida in 1976 with DWI’s, fraud, vehicle theft and passing worthless checks. He was sentenced to seven years in Florida, serving two years.

In Louisiana, he was arrested for simple robbery and was sentenced to eight years in prison.

In Texas, he was arrested for several counts of theft and aggravated assault on a public servant. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison, served 11 years and two months, then was released on parole, police said.

When Gross failed to appear for his last scheduled parole visit from his probation and parole officer, a parole violation warrant was issued for his arrest on March 30, investigators said.

State Police are conducting an ongoing investigation into Gross and his activity with the Southern Justice Center, and said additional charges are still pending.

Anyone who thinks they may have been a victim of fraud by Gross or the Southern Justice Center should contact State police detectives at 225-925-3833, or 225-925-7282.