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Congressman Keeps Counsel Despite Possible Conflicts

     BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) – As he battles a 20-count tax-fraud indictment, U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm is not worried that the former FBI cronies representing him may have a conflict of interest.
     Grimm, who hung on to his Staten Island seat last month, tapped Stuart Kaplan and Joseph Sconzo to defend him against charges that he underreported wages and employed illegal workers at his former Manhattan restaurant.
     Kaplan and Sconzo worked with Grimm in 1999 when he was an FBI agent.
     They also represented Grimm’s reported ex-girlfriend, Diana Durand, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to making illegal contributions to Grimm’s 2010 campaign.
     Durand faces sentencing Feb. 20.
     At a hearing Monday, U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen peppered the Republican congressman with questions to ensure that he knew of the potential conflicts of interest.
     “Any advice that they may give you may not be in your best interest,” Chen warned, adding that Grimm’s new attorneys may even be called to testify against him.
     Grimm said he had “fully vetted” the possibilities and wished to proceed.
     “I completely understand,” Grimm said. “I don’t see any conflicts of interest.”
     Grimm’s new attorneys attended the hearing via telephone.
     Their client faces 20 counts of tax fraud for allegedly underreporting his finances and hiring illegal immigrants at his Upper East Side restaurant, Healthalicious.
     Jury selection in his trial has been set for Feb. 2.
     In his failed attempt to upend the charges against him, Grimm called the prosecution politically motive and “vindictive.”
     Chen dismissed those claims as “random speculation.”

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