Trials & Litigation

Jury hears law office tape, is told attorney Paul Bergrin talked of witness hits, making $1M weekly

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Updated: Clearly, Oscar Cordova isn’t the most pristine of witnesses. In testimony in federal court in Newark, N.J., on Tuesday, he admitted doing drugs and also said he had sex in his hotel room with women sent there by defendant Paul Bergrin, a prominent criminal defense attorney now on trial for murder, racketeering and other alleged crimes.

But, Cordova said he told the feds, when he agreed to be a paid informant against Bergrin concerning a then-client of the lawyer, cocaine distributor Vicente Esteves, there were some things he didn’t do. Among them: Participating in a conspiracy to put a contract hit on witnesses against Esteves, the Record reports.

“I told them, ‘I sell drugs and I am a gang member, but I don’t kill people,’ ” testified Cordova, 42, concerning his conversation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. He is reportedly a Chicago-based member of the Latin Kings.

Wearing a wire as he met repeatedly with Bergrin over a six-month period in 2008, Cordova told the jury, he discussed with the attorney how the witness hits would be conducted, as well as a potential cocaine trade partnership, the newspaper reports. “We can make a million dollars in profit a week,” Bergrin said during a July 2008 conversation that was played for the jury in court yesterday.

At one point in a recorded conversation, as the two discussed “Junior the Panamanian,” a member of the Esteves organization believed to be cooperating with authorities

Cordova said, “What do you suggest I do? Kill him?” the newspaper recounts.

“Yeah,” Bergrin responded.

A subsequent Star-Ledger article describes further taped evidence presented on Wednesday and says Bergrin, who is defending himself, is expected to cross-examine Thursday or Friday.

Attorney Lawrence Lustberg, who is serving as back-up counsel to Bergrin, told the newspaper he expects Bergrin’s presentation “to vigorously attack Mr. Cordova’s character and honesty. But it will also serve to support Mr. Bergrin’s defense, which is that he was stringing Mr. Cordova along and never had the necessary criminal intent for conspiracy to commit murder.”

The attorney is charged under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act with operating his Newark law office as a criminal enterprise. He is accused of drug trafficking, promoting prostitution, murder, attempted murder of a federal informant and witness tampering.

Additional coverage: “Jury Selection Begins in Trial of Ex-Prosecutor Accused of Operating Law Firm as RICO Enterprise” “Is lawyer ‘a drug dealer, a pimp and a murderer’? Bergrin says he’s innocent, calls witnesses liars” “Woman says lawyer Paul Bergrin pushed her to lie, as a child, about her dad’s attack on her mom” “Drug trafficker serving time testifies attorney sold kilos of coke from his law office”

Updated on Feb. 21 to include and accord with subsequent Star-Ledger coverage.

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