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White collar defendant says prosecutors must recuse themselves

A Pittsburgh-area businessman under indictment for tax fraud is asking the federal judge overseeing the case to disqualify the prosecutors from the local U.S. Attorney's Office from trying his case because one of the attorneys heard him give "confidential information related directly" to the case when she was working for a private firm.

The defendant is accused in a 2011 indictment of underreporting income from using a number of companies he has been involved in over the last 10 years. Federal authorities also say he used his longtime girlfriend as a figurehead for the companies and failing to report income he was required to disclose to the government in a 1996 plea agreement on charges of bank and tax fraud.

On June 15, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania announced to the court that an assistant prosecutor was withdrawing from the case. That same day, the defendant filed a motion with the court asking the judge to disqualify the entire office from prosecuting him. In the motion, the defendant explained that the withdrawing attorney formerly worked at a local firm that he visited while searching for legal representation.

According to the motion, the assistant U.S. Attorney sat in on the meeting between a partner at the firm and the defendant. During that meeting, the defendant said, he disclosed information related to the case. Such discussions between attorney and potential client are generally covered by attorney-client privilege. Though the attorney who participated in the meeting has withdrawn, the defendant's attorneys seem to believe that the entire prosecution is tainted by confidential information.

The judge gave the U.S. Attorney's Office until July 2 to respond to the motion.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Fraud suspect targets prosecutors in case," Len Boselovic, June 19, 2012

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