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Lawyer is sentenced for role in Milberg kickback case

August 12, 2008|From Bloomberg News

A Los Angeles lawyer was sentenced Monday to two months in prison for helping securities law firm Milberg make illegal kickbacks to a client who served as lead plaintiff in shareholder lawsuits.

U.S. District Judge John F. Walter, at a hearing in federal court in Los Angeles, rejected a request by prosecutors to sentence Richard Purtich to one year of probation. Walter also ordered Purtich, who had been cooperating with the eight-year investigation of the New York firm, to pay a $50,000 fine.

"There's little doubt in my mind that this is a very serious offense," Walter said. "Mr. Purtich knew what he was doing."

Purtich pleaded guilty two years ago to not disclosing to the Internal Revenue Service that so-called referral fees his firm received from Milberg were payments to Steven Cooperman, a former Beverly Hills eye surgeon who has admitted he was a paid plaintiff in shareholder lawsuits. Purtich used the payments to satisfy Cooperman's legal bills in unrelated cases and forwarded part of the money to Cooperman, prosecutors said.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Richard Robinson said the government sought a reduced sentence for Purtich because of the importance of his cooperation in the Milberg investigation.

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