SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A former federal prosecutor has pleaded guilty to several counts of obstructing justice and transporting stolen goods in connection to a scheme to sell information contained in sealed court cases to various companies.
Jeffrey Wertkin, an attorney working for Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld – one of the most profitable lobbying firms in the nation – was arrested this past January while attempting to sell a sealed lawsuit to an undercover FBI agent. Wertkin wore a wig during the attempted sale.
Wertkin worked in the Justice Department’s civil fraud section for six years beginning in 2010. While there, he had access to several whistleblower lawsuits, called qui tam suits, which are legally required to be kept under seal to protect the whistleblowers and other individuals attempting to report on fraud.
According to the criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday, Wertkin began accessing sealed lawsuits during his last month at the Justice Department, collecting information from cases not assigned to him.
After he left the department and joined Akin Gump, Wertkin approached several of the companies implicated in whistleblower lawsuits and offered to reveal details for significant sums. In one case Wertkin pulled in $310,000 for a copy of a suit, according to federal prosecutors
The criminal complaint details how an individual calling himself “Dan” approached a security company in Sunnyvale, California, last November to discuss providing a copy of the lawsuit for a fee. Wertkin then entered into numerous discussions between November and January, negotiating the price.
Meanwhile in January, Wertkin contacted another corporation in an attempt to garner a fee in exchange for a copy of the lawsuit, at one point offering to mail the first page of the complaint as proof of its existence, according to the Justice Department.
Wertkin eventually mailed a copy of the first page, and demanded a fee for the rest.
He faced one count of interstate transportation of stolen goods and two counts of obstruction of justice, relating to the destruction of numerous records after his arrest. Upon being released on bail, prosecutors say Wertkin went to his office to retrieve his personal effects and instead destroyed incriminating evidence.
Wertkin pleaded guilty to all three counts in front of U.S. District Judge Maxine Chesney, who set a sentencing hearing for March 14, 2018.
He faces up to 20 years in prison and a $750,000 fine.