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CPA Skimmed from Settlement, Class Says

ST. LOUIS (CN) - A federal class action claims that an accounting firm hired as claims administrator for a $490 million class action over the merger of Bank of America and NationsBank paid an employee millions of dollars in false claims. Lead plaintiff David Oetting, a representative of the NationsBank class in the original lawsuit, sued Heffler, Radetich & Saitta LLP.

Oetting says the settlement from the original class action netted $490 million and that Heffler, a certified public accounting firm, was hired as claims administrator. From the $490 million settlement fund, the NationsBank class was awarded $332.2 million and the NationsBank class $156.8 million, according to the complaint.

However, "Heffler's employee Christian Penta defrauded three separate class actions, including the Action, of tens of millions of dollars," the complaint states.

Penta was a senior accountant for Heffler, according to the complaint.

"The amount Heffler paid from the NationsBank settlement fund on the false claims submitted by Penta and his co-conspirators totaled somewhere over $5.0 million."

Penta and five others were charged on Sept. 11, 2008 with mail fraud and wire fraud for filing false claims in the NationsBank settlement as well as other class action settlements, the complaint states. Penta pleaded guilty to the charges.

The class includes all class members from the NationsBank settlement. It seeks damages for breach of fiduciary duty and accountant malpractice. It is represented by Frank Tomlinson of Birmingham, Ala.


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