White-Collar Crime

Law Firm's $8K Monthly 'Retainer' Payments to Another Law Firm Were Bribes, Indictment Says

Monthly “retainer” payments of $8,000 by one law firm to another law firm were actually bribes, a federal indictment says.

It charges Eric Wisler, who was then with DeCotiis Fitzpatrick & Cole, and Wayne Bryant, a former state senator and then-partner in a Cherry Hill, N.J.., law firm, with funneling payments from clients to Bryant that, although purportedly for legal work, were in fact payments for official action on development matters, reports the South Bergenite.

A number of the now-failed big-bucks projects concerned the Meadowlands. Others were in South Jersey, the Courier-Post reported.

In addition to bribery, the two men also are charged with mail fraud. The South Bergenite article doesn’t include any comment from them or their lawyers. The Courier-Post says it could not reach attorney Carl Poplar, who represents Bryant, yesterday but attorney Michael Critchley, who represents Wisler, says he denies the charges.

The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan because the U.S. Attorney in New Jersey formerly did work for a developer once represented by Wisler, explains the South Bergenite.

Prosecutors say Bryant’s firm received approximately $192,000 from 2004 to 2006, but performed no legal work. Each defendant allegedly tried to conceal the retainer agreement from hisr law firm and created false documents to try to make it look as though legal work was being done. In 2006, the payments ended after they came to the attention of Wisler’s firm, which questioned him about them.

Bryant is presently serving time in an unrelated bribery case.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com (2008): “Report Criticizes N.J. Law Firm and its Developer Client”

ABAJournal.com: “Ex-Legislator’s Indictment re Law Firm ‘Retainer’ Fees Spurs Call for Ethics Reform”

Updated on Sept. 29 to add link to subsequent ABAJournal.com post.

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