Criminal Justice

Akin Gump partner is arrested while wearing a disguise and trying to sell a sealed lawsuit, FBI says

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A partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld who used a fake name and wore a wig was arrested last week while trying to sell a copy of a sealed whistleblower complaint to a company under federal investigation, according to the FBI.

The FBI said lawyer Jeffrey Wertkin hoped to collect $310,000 in the lawsuit sale, Bloomberg Big Law Business reports. Akin Gump “took swift action” after learning about the arrest and Wertkin is no longer with the firm, according to a spokesperson.

Wertkin was arrested on Jan. 31 at a hotel in Cupertino, California. He apparently believed he was selling the suit to an employee of a company being investigated for falsely billing the government. “My life is over,” Wertkin reportedly told an FBI agent who arrested him. He is free on $750,000 bond.

Wertkin joined Akin Gump in April 2016 from the U.S. Justice Department, where he worked in the civil division’s commercial litigation branch. A press release described him as an experienced False Claims Act lawyer who had overseen complex investigations of health care fraud.

The criminal complaint (PDF) accuses Wertkin of criminal contempt of court.

A probable cause affidavit (PDF) unsealed on Monday says the investigation began after a high-ranking employee of a technology security company told the FBI he had received a call from a person calling himself “Dan.” Dan offered to provide a copy of a sealed False Claims Act complaint in exchange for a “consulting fee.” The employee agreed to record phone calls with Dan for the FBI.

Dan demanded a fee of $300,000, later raised to $310,000, and asked for payment in bitcoin. Dan arranged to meet a different corporate employee—in reality the FBI agent—in the lobby of the Hilton Garden Inn in Cupertino.

An Akin Gump spokesperson released this statement: “We are shocked and deeply troubled by the conduct alleged in the charges filed against Mr. Wertkin. Honesty and integrity are at the core of our values and our client relationships. Immediately upon learning of these charges, we took swift action and Mr. Wertkin is no longer with the firm.”

Wertkin’s lawyer, Julia Jayne, did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.

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