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Trial begins for former Baker & McKenzie partner

Martin Weisberg accused of diverting $1.6 million of client’s funds

As if Mondays weren’t bad enough, one former lawyer goes to trial today on charges that he diverted $1.6 million of one of his clients’ escrow funds.

Prosecutors charged Martin Weisberg, a former Baker & McKenzie partner, with 10 counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering in 2008. They say he secretly put $30 million of one of his clients’ money in an interest-bearing account. The account earned him $1.6 million in interest over 14 months, and Weisberg allegedly transferred $1.3 million out of the account to repay another client.

Weisberg has pleaded not guilty. He says he was authorized to access the interest from the account as a loan, and that he eventually repaid the interest.

This isn’t Weisberg’s first bout of legal troubles. In 1991, a federal jury acquitted him of charges that he helped a client launder profits from an arbitrage scheme. In 2007, he was indicted for an alleged $55 million stock-fraud scheme. That case is still ongoing.

Weisberg faces up to 20 years behind bars for each count of wire fraud, another 10 years for the money laundering charge and a possible $2.6 million fine. 

Baker & McKenzie intends to cooperate with the prosecution if it asks the firm to do so. “Mr. Weisberg was with our firm for a fairly short time,” spokesman Kevin Blasko told Thomson Reuters. “He resigned at our insistence immediately after we learned of his indictment on charges arising from activities unrelated to our firm.”

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