A plea deal by a Los Angeles attorney has added another item to prosecutors’ list of alleged activity by the New York-based Milberg Weiss Bershad Haynes & Lerach LLP law firm: to pay off persons to serve as plaintiffs in shareholder class action law suits.
Richard R. Purtich, 53, pleaded guilty to a felony tax offense at U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. Among the charges, Purtich confessed to concealing $879,868 in income he was paid by Milberg Weiss in 1993.
He could serve as much as three years in prison, said the Central District of California U.S. Attorney’s Office.
In the plea agreement, Purtich admitted that he and others received checks from Milberg Weiss totaling more than $3.5 million between 1992 and 1996. The money was compensation for Steven G. Cooperman, who allegedly served as a name for plaintiff suits that the law firm filed over the course of 20 years.
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Purtich allegedly never made referrals or did any work, or anything else to earn the money, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Last week, Milberg Weiss was indicted, along with David J. Bershad and Steven G. Schulman, partners in the firm, in a 20-count indictment alleging obstruction of justice, perjury, bribery and fraud.
The law firm is accused of a scheme where individuals received secret kickback payments to serve, or cause friends and relatives to serve, as named plaintiffs in lawsuits filed by the firm.