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Former Akin Gump Attorney Jeffrey Wertkin to Plead Guilty
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Jeffrey Wertkin

Summary: The attorney who tried to sell secret government whistle-blower lawsuit documents has agreed to plead guilty.

The Washington lawyer who tried to sell copies of secret lawsuits involving the U.S. Department of Justice has agreed to plead guilty. Jeffrey Wertkin used to work for Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP before he was arrested in the lobby of Cupertino, California hotel.

  
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Wertkin was at the hotel, wearing a wig, so he could hand over the files in exchange for $310,000. The lawsuit document copes he was trying to sell involved companies being investigated by the Justice Department. He had taken the copies with him when he left his government position in 2016, according to the suit. An FBI agent was waiting for him at the hotel.

Wertkin’s attorney, Cris Arguedas, said, “Jeff led a good and honorable life for many years. In a lapse of judgment he made some serious mistakes. He is doing his best now to make amends.”

He was charged with obstruction of justice and interstate transportation of stolen goods. His attorney did not specify which charges he was pleading guilty to, only that he would be entering his plea sometime this month.

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Wertkin used to be a trial attorney with the Justice Department’s False Claims Unit. Prosecutors allege that it was there that he took copies of two sealed corporate fraud lawsuits. During his time with the Justice Department, Wertkin “led more than 20 major fraud investigations” but those did not include the False Claims Act complaints that he stole.

False Claims Act lawsuits allow whistle-blowers to sue companies on behalf of the U.S. government. These lawsuits are known as qui tam complaints and filed under court seal to be given to the Justice Department. Generally, these kinds of lawsuits involve claims against company’s executives cheating taxpayers. The government may take months or even years investigating before deciding to join the lawsuit and notify the company of the allegations against them. The whistleblowers are able to collect in some of the recoveries. Some have even received tens of millions of dollars.



The investigation found that Wertkin “removed copies of lawsuits #1 and #2, along with other qui tam complaints without permission and for his own personal use.” He was offering the companies on the subject of the investigations an advance peek at the sealed case plus the name of the whistleblower. He wanted money in return. Wertkin is believed to have started calling the companies, one in Oregon and the other in Cupertino. He claimed his name was Dan. He told the employees at the companies that he could provide information on the complaints against them for a price.

The employee at the Cupertino company called the FBI after receiving the call from Wertkin. The FBI directed the employee to record the calls and then arrange a meeting at the hotel to exchange money for the documents. When he was arrested by the FBI agents, he apparently said, “My life is over.”

When Akin Gump learned of their employee’s arrest, they moved quickly to distance themselves from him, including firing him immediately.

After Wertkin’s arrest, the FBI opened an investigation into the Justice Department’s civil division.

What kind of punishment would you like to see Wertkin receive? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

To learn more about whistle-blower suits, read these articles:

Photo: law.com



 

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