Legal Ethics

Indicted Defense Lawyer Makes Unusual Filing in Civil SEC Case

A 56-year-old Georgia securities law practitioner and another man have been criminally charged in federal court in North Carolina concerning an alleged interstate investment fraud.

But that shouldn’t prevent defense lawyer Gregory Bartko from continuing to represent a client in a claimed $53 million civil fraud case in federal court in Detroit, he says in a court filing, since the two cases are unrelated and his client consents.

U.S. District Judge David Lawson, who is presiding over the so-called Billionaire Boys Club case in Detroit against John and Shari Bravata, and their son, Antonio Bravata, apparently hasn’t yet made any determination concerning the potential representation issue, according to the Detroit News.

A press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of North Carolina says Bartko and a co-defendant in California were indicted earlier this month on charges including mail fraud; false statements; and conspiring to commit mail fraud, launder money instruments and obstruct the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Using bank accounts in Georgia controlled by Bartko, the defendants allegedly collected hundreds of thousands of dollars from fraudulent investment sales made in reliance on what the press release terms “materially false statements and omissions” by an unindicted co-conspirator who is accused of acting as a salesman in the claimed scheme.

As Bartko discloses to Lawson in a federal court filing (PDF) today, a senior U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer in the Bravata case e-mailed Bartko and all counsel who have appeared in the Bravata case on Nov. 20, attaching a copy of the press release about the indictment and implying that the SEC would notify the court if Bartko didn’t do so himself.

However, “upon review of this court’s local rules and the Michigan Code of Professional Responsibility,” writes Bartko, “an affirmative duty to advise this court as well as any bar association or disciplinary body thereof of the initiation of criminal charges against an attorney ripens upon a conviction of any crime–not upon the charges themselves.”

Nonetheless, Bartko notes in the filing, he is advising the court of the e-mail from SEC Senior Trial Counsel John Lundy and that he has discussed the situation with his clients, who do not object. The defense lawyer also “stands ready and willing,” he writes, “to provide any other non-privileged information the court may require” in connection with the SEC lawyer’s e-mail or the indictment.

Reached today by telephone by the ABA Journal at his law office, Bartko declined to comment at this time and referred a reporter to his counsel, Ed Garland and Don Samuel, who could not immediately be reached.

A website listing for Bartko’s law firm says he is a 26-year securities and corporate finance practitioner who earned his juris doctor degree from Detroit College of Law and a LL.M. in securities regulation from Georgetown University Law Center.

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