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When Is a Law Firm Allegedly Part of a RICO Criminal Enterprise? 3rd Circuit Explains

Posted Apr 13, 2011 10:46 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A federal district judge erred in dismissing racketeering counts against a prominent New Jersey defense attorney and former prosecutor accused of using his law offices as part of a criminal enterprise, a federal appeals court ruled yesterday.

Although the judge was understandably concerned about the complexity of the case against attorney Paul Bergrin and his co-defendants, the variety of crimes of which they are accused—which range from operating a prostitution ring to arranging to murdering witnesses against Bergrin's clients—speak to the extent and dangerousness of the alleged Racketeer Influencedand Corrupt Organizations Act enterprise he is accused of running rather than any pleading inadequacy, explains the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in its written opinion (PDF).

As the opinion details, Bergrin is accused of using two law firms operated under his name not only to shield clients from the consequences of their alleged criminal acts but to work with criminals outside the firms on projects to benefit his clients and each other. This shows the breadth and versatility of the organization the government calls the Bergrin Law Enterprise and "provides even stronger evidence that it was an ongoing association formed to pursue criminal objectives," the appellate panel writes, assuming that the allegations are true for the purpose of deciding Bergrin's motion to dismiss.

Meanwhile, the panel notes, "the indictment also alleges facts indicating that each individual defendant engaged in at least two predicate acts, which is the basis for the assertion that each engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity."

Bergrin, as detailed in prior ABAJournal.com posts, faces dozens of charges including conspiracy to murder in addition to the RICO counts in an ongoing federal criminal case in Newark, N.J.

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