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BigLaw Partner Pleads Guilty to Sale of Sealed DOJ Case

By George Khoury, Esq. on December 01, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A former partner at a BigLaw firm, and former DOJ staffer, Jeffrey Wertkin, accepted a plea deal in the case against him stemming from the sale of a sealed Justice Department lawsuit.

For certain causes of action, such as federal qui tam claims, the DOJ requires lawsuits be filed with them first, confidentially. The department then decides whether it would like to pursue the action, or allow the plaintiff asserting the claim to do so. Wertkin was arrested and charged after he was discovered attempting to sell a sealed lawsuit to a company being investigated by the DOJ.

Singing And Stinging

Before entering the ranks of BigLaw, Wertkin worked for the DOJ for several years. However, before his departure, he stole the sealed lawsuits that he was not working on, but had access to. It is unknown how many he took, or if he sold other cases, or used them to solicit business. Immediately after being released from being booked, he admitted to destroying relevant documents in his possession.

He got caught after the company he reached out to in order to sell one of these sealed lawsuits contacted the authorities. The FBI set up a sting operation, haggled over the price, and eventually agreed to a $300K price tag that was to be paid as a consultancy fee.

Pleading to the Dirty Deed

After a year of this case working its way through the criminal justice system, Wertkin agreed to a plea deal on all charges, including 2 counts of obstruction of justice, and one count of transportation of stolen property across state lines. Though he could potentially be looking at 5 to 10 years, prosecutors have stated the intention to only ask for about 3 years. However, sentencing will not be until March 2018.

Although Wertkin may no longer be a BigLaw partner, as of this date, he is still listed as active on the D.C. Bar Association's website. According to a report on Reuters, Wertkin's attorney made the following statement in connection to this matter:

"Jeff had a long career as a lawyer doing good work. He made a terrible mistake, for which he is extremely sorry, and is now working to make amends."

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