The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey has some interesting and illustrious alumni.
Some are now distinguished federal judges, like Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., and Judge Maryanne Trump Barry (3d Cir.). Some are high-ranking officials in state government, like Stuart Rabner, the Attorney General of New Jersey. One works as a legal gossip blogger.
A criminal defense lawyer who worked as a federal and state prosecutor in New Jersey has been indicted for running a Manhattan-based escort service, Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau announced Wednesday.
The lawyer, Paul Bergrin, who has defended soldiers charged with committing abuses while in Iraq, was arraigned Wednesday on a fugitive warrant in Newark, N.J., and bail was set at $500,000.
No plea to the charges was entered, but Bergrin, 51, declined to waive extradition at the proceeding.
Bergrin is a well-known figure within Garden State legal circles. The Newark Star-Ledger accurately describes him as “a brash, high-powered defense attorney who courted controversy.” His clients ranged from defendants in the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal to rap star turned actress Queen Latifah.
We never had any personal dealings with Paul Bergrin when we were in the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Many of our fellow AUSAs did, however, and he didn’t have the best reputation. Bergrin wasn’t viewed as the most trustworthy or upstanding of adversaries. He was the kind of defense lawyer who, if you had a meeting or telephone call with him, you’d want someone else in the meeting or on the call (in case there was ever any dispute over what transpired).
But we had no idea about Bergrin’s little sideline in the procurement business. For the details of this salacious story, keep on reading.
The Star-Ledger describes how Bergrin allegedly got involved in this venture:
According to Morgenthau, the indictments stemmed from Bergrin’s relationship with Jason Itzler, the owner of [the escort service] NY Confidential, who was arrested on an Ecstasy drug charge at Newark Liberty International Airport in 2001. Although both men had gone to Florida’s prestigious Nova University Law School, they didn’t know each other until Bergrin became Itzler’s attorney. But by 2004, the district attorney said, Bergrin had became deeply involved in his client’s escort agency.
NY Confidential, an (alleged) prostitution ring disguised as an escort service, (allegedly) operated as follows:
The agency advertised extensively on the Internet, in New York Magazine, and by word of mouth, and Bergrin received payments in excess of $5,000 a month, said Detective Myles Mahady of the Manhattan South Vice Enforcement Unit.
“The dates were booked for $1,000 an hour. It brought in about $1.2 million in the first six months,” said Mahady.
The service had high-end clients, including professional athletes and well-heeled Wall Street types. Everything was going smoothly — for a while. From the NYLJ:
[I]n January 2005, Jason Itzler, who had been the service’s manager, was arrested. He subsequently pleaded guilty to money laundering and promoting prostitution, and was expected to be sentenced to 1 1/2 to 3 years during an appearance Thursday in Manhattan Supreme Court.
A second indictment alleges that Bergrin, Cortopassi, Oritz and a former escort continued to operate the business for another three months, from Jan. 12, 2005, to March 2, 2005.
But the business did poorly during that period. Why? Back to the Star-Ledger:
[B]y March 2005 the business had collapsed, because Bergrin was apparently not the entrepreneur that Itzler had proved to be, said Eugene Hurley, the assistant district attorney who presented the case to a New York grand jury.
“Itzler was an extraordinary salesman and he knew how to get the women and keep things working. Bergrin, however, was not prepared to put the 20-hour days into it that Itzler did. Bergrin tried to be an attorney at the same time,” said Hurley.
We’ve never tried it ourselves, but it’s probably tough to run a law practice and a prostitution ring at the same time. While Bergrin is to be commended for his entrepreneurial zeal — lawyers are frequently criticized as risk-averse weenies — he should have put more effort into his pimping career if he wanted it to suceed.
But perhaps Bergrin was distracted by free merchandise. From the New York Post:
As a perk, the married, 51-year-old father of three from Morganville, N.J., got gratis gratification from the gals.
“Mr. Bergrin was receiving free sex from the escorts,” Assistant District Attorney Eugene Hurley said, adding that the escorts were still paid, out of the brothel’s own coffers.
Winked Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau: “That’s called eating the profits.”
“Eating the profits.” Is there a preposition missing in that sentence?
Former U.S. prosecutor charged in call-girl ring [Newark Star-Ledger via How Appealing]
A Tough Defense Lawyer Finds He’s in Need of One [New York Times]
Ex-Prosecutor Is Accused of Running Escort Service [New York Law Journal via Law.com]
ALL RISE! LAWYER ‘PIMPED’ [New York Post]
It’s allegedly hard out here for a former federal prosecutor [How Appealing]
Paul Bergrin bio [Law Office of Paul W. Bergrin, P.C.]