A former prosecutor for the United States Department of Justice has pled guilty to attempting to sell sealed False Claims cases to the defendants in those cases and to transporting stolen goods across state lines. Jeffrey Wertkin was a DOJ prosecutor who had entered private practice with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. Mr. Wertkin was arrested by the FBI in January 2017 in a California hotel, wearing a disguise, while attempting to sell a sealed federal complaint to a Silicon Valley technology company for $310,000. The company had contacted the FBI after Mr. Wertkin had contacted a high-ranking employee of the tech company to set up the meeting.
Pursuant to a recent press release issued by the Department of Justice, Wertkin’s plan involved accumulating sealed whistleblower fraud cases during his last month working at the DOJ. He then removed copies of the complaints when he left the DOJ. Apparently, Mr. Wertkin sought to have copies of these secret, high-stakes cases to not only sell to the defendants targeted in the cases—so as to give them an advance look at the pending complaint—but as a way to lock-in new clients for his defense services. As stated by Mr. Wertkin in his Plea Agreement: “I began secretly reviewing and collecting complaints to identify clients to solicit for business when I was in practice and, thereby, to make myself more successful at Akin Gump.”
Mr. Wertkin pled guilty to two counts of obstructing justice and one count of interstate transportation of stolen property. Mr. Wertkin’s sentencing is scheduled to take place in March 2018. He is expected to meet with the DOJ to provide it with further information as to how he was able to remove the case files.
Mr. Wertkin had worked in the DOJ from October 2010 until April 2016. Notably, Mr. Wertkin was co-counsel in a complex, $200 million FCA case against AseraCare, a Texas-based, for-profit hospice provider. As discussed in a prior article, the case involving AseraCare was a noteworthy FCA case involving statistical sampling in which a jury verdict for the Government was set aside.