NY law student accused of selling legal secrets
NEW YORK, Sept 21 (Reuters) - A former paralegal charged with trying to sell an asbestos victims fund's confidential trial plan to the tobacco industry is in plea negotiations with federal prosecutors, court papers revealed on Thursday.
According to the papers, Said Farraj, 27, a former paralegal with the law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, and his brother Yeazid, 24, are in talks aimed at settling the criminal case filed by federal prosecutors in Manhattan in July.
Orrick, Herrington is one of the law firms representing the Manville Personal Injury Settlement Trust, which is suing tobacco companies seeking reimbursement for smoking-related illnesses involving workers exposed to asbestos.
The case, which is pending in Brooklyn federal court, names Philip Morris Cos. Inc. . and other major tobacco companies as defendants.
The lawsuit alleges the defendants conspired to hide information about the health dangers of smoking and that there is a scientific link between smoking and the enhanced risk of lung disease in people exposed to asbestos in their jobs.
An asbestos worker who smoked is almost 100 times more likely to die of lung cancer than the average person, while an asbestos worker who did not smoke was five times as likely to die of lung cancer, the suit alleges.
Said Farraj was employed as a paralegal at Orrick, Herrington from May 20 until June 18. He was working as a summer intern in the Manhattan offices of New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer when he was charged in the complaint. He currently is a third-year law student at Quinnipiac College.
According to court papers, Orrick, Herrington had compiled its trial plan containing strategy, deposition excerpts, and summaries and references to anticipated court exhibits. The plan, which was at least 400 pages when printed, was maintained on the firm's computer system in New York.
The court documents said an unidentified Orrick, Herrington lawyer told an FBI agent that he had been contacted by an attorney representing the tobacco defendants who received an unsolicited e-mail message offering to sell the plan.
The message was sent from an e-mail address that included the nickname FlyGuy. It went to the defence lawyer in Atlanta, as well as other defence lawyers in Missouri, New York, New Jersey and North Carolina.
The message contained an 80-page excerpt of the plan, which the plaintiffs' lawyers estimated was worth about $5,000 worth of attorney work.
According to the documents, the FBI agent, posing as a tobacco defence lawyer, contacted the e-mail sender and said he was interested in buying the trial plan. The agent received a response from FlyGuy offering to sell the entire plan for $3 million, or 0.1 percent, of the plaintiff's $3 billion lawsuit settlement demand.
FlyGuy arranged a meeting with the undercover FBI agent at a McDonald's in lower Manhattan to obtain payment for the plan. An agent carrying a duffel bag with $200,000 and wearing a recording device went to the restaurant and met with FlyGuy's representative, who turned out to be Yeazid Farraj, the documents said.
Farraj was arrested and he told police that his brother Said had copied the plan while he was a paralegal at the firm.
If the brothers do not reach a plea deal and are convicted of the two counts contained in the complaint, they could face a possible maximum prison term of 15 years.