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Former Milberg Weiss partner pleads guilty to conspiracy in class action scheme

[JURIST] Former Milberg Weiss [firm website] partner William Lerach pleaded guilty to conspiracy Monday for his part in the firm's illegal kickback scheme. Lerach reached an agreement with prosecutors last month to plead guilty [press release; JURIST report] to conspiracy to obstruct justice and will forfeit $7.75 million to the government, pay a $250,000 fine, and serve one to two years in prison. Milberg Weiss co-founder Melvyn Weiss pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] earlier this month to federal charges of conspiracy, racketeering, obstruction of justice and making false statements.

Lerach's guilty plea is the latest in the ongoing seven-year federal investigation of Milberg Weiss' alleged illegal kickback scheme. In May of 2006, a federal grand jury indicted [JURIST report] the firm and two name partners, David J. Bershad and Steven G. Schulman, on charges of conspiracy to make false statements and obstructing justice. Lerach was named as "Partner B" in the indictment [PDF text]. As part of the scheme, certain individuals who agreed to serve as class action representatives were promised 10 percent of the attorney fees eventually gathered by Milberg Weiss. Three individuals pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in connection with the scheme in May 2006, and former Milberg Weiss name partner David Bershad pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to conspiracy charges in July. AP has more.

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