A lawyer for Zhenli Ye Gon, the international pharmaceuticals businessman accused of participating in a methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy, has withdrawn from the case more than two years into the litigation.
The lawyer, Martin McMahon of Washington, D.C.'s McMahon & Associates, said in a recent interview that he was planning to withdraw amid a dispute over attorney fees with Ye Gon, who has remained jailed since his arrest in suburban Maryland in July 2007.
McMahon had been involved in the Ye Gon case pre-indictment, according to court records. Ye Gon was in the United States for several months before federal agents found him eating dinner with a friend at a restaurant in Wheaton, Md. McMahon did not return a call seeking comment Monday.
The attorney withdrawal marks the latest twist involving Ye Gon and his lawyers. One former lawyer for Ye Gon, Ning Ye, is charged with assault for an alleged skirmish with two deputy U.S. marshals during a hearing in the Ye Gon case last year. The case against Ning Ye, who is now represented by D.C. solo practitioner Gregory Smith, is pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Smith filed a notice of appearance last week. He declined to comment Monday on the assault case.
Another former lawyer for Ye Gon, David Zapp of New York, is suing Ye Gon for attorney fees. Ye Gon hired Zapp on a contingency basis. In a letter to Zapp that is signed by Ye Gon, Ye Gon said he needed a lawyer with experience in drug and extradition matters. The Mexican government wants to try Ye Gon in Mexico on charges that include organized crime and drug violations.
"I really need you to help me out with this evil case because all my family member have nothing to do with any illegal business," Ye Gon wrote in the letter, which Zapp provided to The National Law Journal. Ye Gon said he is "totally innocent" and the only reason he was "put in jail" stems from the more than $200 million in cash authorities found in Ye Gon's mansion in Mexico City. In the United States, authorities seized more than a million dollars in cash and property allegedly tied to the drug trafficking conspiracy.
Zapp said he requested the Justice Department release more than $400,000 to him for attorney fees from money seized in the Ye Gon case. Zapp said he has not been paid a dime. Ye Gon is suing Zapp in a counterclaim that alleges malpractice.
Last October, Ye Gon retained two lawyers in Washington, Manuel Retureta of Retureta & Wassem, and solo practitioner A. Eduardo Balarezo. Retureta and Balarezo have declined to talk about financial arrangements in the case.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan is expected to dismiss the trafficking conspiracy charge against Ye Gon at a hearing Aug. 26 in federal district court in Washington. In June, the Justice Department moved to dismiss the conspiracy charge against Ye Gon, citing evidentiary concerns and the fact Mexico has a pending case against Ye Gon.
This article first appeared on The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times.