Summary: The former BigLaw and Justice Department lawyer caught trying to sell confidential information pleaded guilty to the charges against him.
The former U.S. Justice Department lawyer caught trying to sell sealed complaints pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and transportation of stolen property. Jeffrey Wertkin had moved to the Bay Area to work for Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP but brought along some documents about companies facing whistleblower complaints that he learned about during his job at the Justice Department.
The 41-year-old from Cupertino was caught in January during an FBI sting. Wertkin thought he was selling the sealed documents to a person who was a representative of the company named in the documents. The person was actually an FBI agent. Wertkin was selling the documents for $310,000.
Prosecutors charged him on November 1 with two counts of obstructing justice and one count of interstate transportation of stolen goods. He pleaded guilty on all counts, which were accepted by U.S. District Judge Maxine Chesney in San Francisco.
Wertkin gained access to the documents when he was working for the Justice Department’s civil fraud section between 2010 and 2016. He had access to whistleblower complaints brought against companies, which were generally sealed from public view. His last month working for the Justice Department, he collected sealed complaints that were not related to his caseload. Once he had left his job, Wertkin used the information to solicit business as a private litigator from the companies named in the complaints.
He admitted in the plea agreement to trying to sell information to companies that were under investigation by the government. In one of the attempts to sell information, he sent a redacted copy of the face sheet on a complaint to the company named in it. He promised the entire document in exchange for a fee.
In another attempt, he made an offer to another company named in a lawsuit. He spent the next two months negotiating the $310,000 fee with a representative from the company. The person at the company had gone directly to the FBI when Wertkin contacted them, working with the FBI to record their conversations with Wertkin and set up the buy at a Cupertino hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn. Wertkin showed up for the meeting wearing a wig as a disguise.
After being released from his arrest, Wertkin returned to his office under the excuse that he was collecting his belongings but he ended up destroying any incriminating documents.
Wertkin will be sentenced on March 14. The maximum term for each obstruction of justice charge is five years in prison plus a $250,000 fine. The interstate transportation of stolen goods charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years and $250,000.
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To learn more about other whistleblower cases, read these articles:
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- Chris Christie Hires Gibbons P.C. of Newark to Defend Whistleblower Lawsuit
- Whistleblower Chelsea Manning May Face Solitary Confinement