From the “truth can be stranger than fiction” category comes a story about Jeffrey Wertkin, a lawyer from Washington, D.C. As reported by Joel Rosenblatt and Jef Feeley on Bloomberg.com last month, Wertkin was arrested following an attempt to sell copies of two secret lawsuits that involved companies under investigation by the United States Justice Department.
Here’s the kicker. Wertkin, who formerly worked for the D.C.-based firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, was caught trying to sell one of the lawsuits while in disguise. Arrested by an FBI agent in the lobby of a Cupertino, California hotel lobby, Wertkin was wearing a wig in an attempt to conceal his true identity while collecting $310,000 for one of the stolen suits.
According to Rosenblatt and Feeley, the disgraced lawyer planned to plead guilty to his charges later in the month. And while those charges included obstruction of justice and interstate transportation of stolen goods, Wertkin’s lawyer, Cris Arguedas did not specify if his client would be pleading guilty to both.
However, in a more recent article by Kathryn Rubino on AboveTheLaw.com, it was confirmed that Wertkin “pleaded guilty (on November 29th) to two charges of obstruction of justice and one count of transporting stolen goods across state lines. Prosecutors said they will seek 30 to 37 months of prison time when he’s sentenced March 14, 2018, though the defense will try for less time.”
Arguedas claims that Wertkin is a good man who made an out-of-character decision. “Jeff led a good and honorable life for many years,” he is quoted as saying in the Bloomberg article, “In a lapse of judgment he made some serious mistakes. He is doing his best now to make amends.”
Wertkin originally obtained the secret lawsuits prior to working for Akin Gump. While working as a trial attorney within the Justice Department’s False Claims unit, he was able to get his hands on the suits. He took them with him when he left his position in 2016.
Using the disguise and creating a new identity known as “Dan”, Wertkin offered to sell the suits to employees of companies that were targeted in the lawsuits. One of the companies is based in Oregon, while the other is in Cupertino. An employee from the latter notified the FBI after being contacted by “Dan”. The employee agreed to record phone calls that took place with Wertkin’s alter ego.
A meeting at a hotel was set up in order for “Dan” to be paid for the secret lawsuit. That is where FBI agents nabbed him. Rosenblatt and Feeley point out that Wertkin apparently uttered the words “my life is over” to the agents who arrested him. As well, “Akin Gump said it was shocked and troubled when it learned of the charges against Wertkin,” the authors also reveal in their article, “The firm said it took ‘swift action’ and that he was no longer employed there.”
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