Washington lawyer charged with trying to sell sealed lawsuit

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By Nate Raymond

<span class="articleLocation”>A Washington lawyer from a major law firm was
wearing a wig as a disguise when he was arrested last week
trying to sell a copy of a secret lawsuit against a California
technology security company for $310,000, according to a
criminal complaint.

Jeffrey Wertkin, a former U.S. Justice Department trial
attorney who joined Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP as a
partner last year, was charged in the complaint filed in federal
court in San Francisco made public on Tuesday.

He was arrested on Jan. 31 at a Cupertino, California, hotel
while trying to sell a copy of the lawsuit to an FBI agent
posing as a colleague of an employee at the security firm in
exchange for a duffle bag full of money, the complaint said.

“My life is over,” Wertkin said out loud shortly after his
arrest by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to the
complaint, which did not state where he obtained the lawsuit
filed under the False Claims Act.

A lawyer for Wertkin, who was charged with contempt of
court, could not be immediately identified. Akin Gump in a
statement said it was “shocked and deeply troubled by the
conduct alleged in the charges filed against Mr. Wertkin.”

“Immediately upon learning of these charges, we took swift
action and Mr. Wertkin is no longer with the firm,” Akin Gump

According to the complaint, the lawsuit was filed in January
2016 under the False Claims Act, which allows whistleblowers to
sue companies on the government’s behalf to recover taxpayer
money paid out based on fraudulent claims.

Those lawsuits are filed under seal to allow the Justice
Department to investigate and determine whether it wants to
intervene in the cases. Whistleblowers can receive a share of
any resulting recovery.

Wertkin joined 920-lawyer Akin Gump in its Washington office
in April 2016 from the U.S. Justice Department, where he was
involved in pursuing False Claims Act cases and several fraud
investigations as a trial attorney, the complaint said.

According to the complaint, in November, someone calling
himself “Dan” contacted an employee of the Sunnyvale,
California-based security company to discuss providing a copy of
the lawsuit for a “consulting fee.”

That employee began recording calls with “Dan” at the FBI’s
request, and negotiated to have a colleague, who was actually an
agent, deliver $310,000 in exchange for the lawsuit.

The case is U.S. v. Wertkin, U.S. District Court, Northern
District of California, No. 17-mj-70131.

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