A Homeland man accused with an attorney of conspiring to file more than five dozen harassment lawsuits seeking payoffs from small businesses over purported Americans with Disabilities Act violations pleaded not guilty Wednesday to felony charges.
Bryan Eduardo Estrada, 27, is charged with three counts each of filing false documents and conspiracy to commit a felony.
Estrada was arraigned before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Sean Crandell, who scheduled a felony settlement conference for July 8 at the Riverside Hall of Justice.
The defendant is free on a $30,000 bond.
His co-defendant, 47-year-old Ross Christopher Cornell of Big Bear, is slated to be arraigned on identical charges on May 12 and is also free on a $30,000 bond.
According to the District Attorney’s Office, from mid 2019 to March of this year, the pair allegedly targeted more than 60 proprietorships countywide in so-called “shakedown” civil actions, claiming that the victims were failing to comply with federal disability access requirements specified under the ADA.
A review of the suits filed by Cornell, who has been practicing law since 2000, revealed that the claims were part of a scam to extract payments, prosecutors allege.
“The District Attorney’s Office supports accessibility rights for disabled persons but strongly maintains that ADA laws should not be manipulated solely for financial benefit, as alleged in this case,” according to an agency statement released in March.
Estrada was the alleged front man in the operation, visiting the businesses and later submitting claims that he could not gain access, according to the D.A.’s office.
It was unknown in how many instances Cornell offered to settle litigation out of court and for what amounts.
Neither man has any documented prior felony or misdemeanor convictions in Riverside County.
The D.A.’s office has previously filed charges against attorneys for alleged shakedown suits, and in 2019, the agency was singled out for praise by the nonprofit Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse for being proactive in trying to safeguard the interests of business owners and deter “abusive ADA lawsuits.”