lawyers ordered not to contact U.S. government witnesses
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[August 19, 2017]
By Brendan Pierson
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Friday
ordered lawyers defending Platinum Partners founder Mark Nordlicht in a
$1 billion fraud case not to communicate with U.S. government witnesses
or their lawyers, after prosecutors claimed Nordlicht's lawyers tried to
intimidate a key witness.
U.S. District Judge Dora Irizarry in Brooklyn said at a court hearing
that if Nordlicht's lawyers contacted government witnesses or their
lawyers again, she would sanction them and jail Nordlicht, who is now
free on bail.
William Burck, one of Nordlicht's lawyers, declined to comment after the
Prosecutors charged Nordlicht and six other executives at the hedge fund
firm in December with running a $1 billion "Ponzi-like" fraud in which
they overvalued assets and selectively paid some investors ahead of
others. All pleaded not guilty.
Irizarry's order on Friday stemmed from a letter in which Nordlicht's
lawyers expressed their understanding that a former Platinum employee
was a key government witness, identified in other court papers only as
In the letter, addressed to the former employee's lawyer, Nordlicht's
lawyers said they found "implausible" an FBI agent's claim, in an
affidavit seeking a warrant to search Platinum's office last year, that
the witness told him Platinum had "profited greatly from its fraudulent
[to top of second column]
Mark Nordlicht, Platinum Partners founding partner and chief
investment officer, exits after a hearing at U.S. Federal Court in
Brooklyn, New York, U.S., January 12, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Nordlicht's lawyers said the former employee would incriminate himself in that
manner only if he had reached a deal with prosecutors. His new employer would
have been required to disclose such a deal to investors but never did,
Nordlicht's lawyers said.
In an Aug. 9 court filing, prosecutors called the letter an attempt to confirm
that the former Platinum employee was CW-1, and a "veiled threat" to contact his
In a filing the following day, Nordlicht's lawyers called that claim "baseless,"
saying they wanted only to find out what CW-1 really told the FBI agent, so they
could move to suppress evidence from the search if the agent's affidavit turned
out to be inaccurate.
Irizarry said Friday she was not persuaded by that explanation.
"I am frankly appalled at the fact that such a letter was written and sent to
this person's attorney," she said.
Before the criminal investigation, Platinum was known for producing
exceptionally high returns - about 17 percent annually in its largest fund. The
company's funds have been placed under the control of a court-appointed
(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)
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