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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 yesterday. The lawyer, Paul Bergrin, who has defended soldiers charged with committing abuses while in Iraq, was arraigned yesterday on a fugitive warrant in Newark, N.J., and bail was set at $500,000. No plea to the charges was entered, but Mr. Bergrin, 51, declined to waive extradition at the proceeding. John Tiffany, who represented Mr. Bergrin, said he expected his client to voluntarily surrender and contest the charges in New York. Mr. Tiffany, a solo practitioner in Newark, N.J., said he had not seen the indictment and could not comment on the substance of the charges. But he described Mr. Bergrin, with whom he had handled many cases, as “about as stand-up a guy as you could get.” Also named in a pair of indictments involving the NY Confidential escort agency were James Cortopassi, who had worked as a law clerk at Mr. Bergrin’s four-lawyer criminal defense firm in Newark, and Hiram Ortiz, a former New Jersey state trooper. Bail for Mr. Ortiz was also set at $500,000. Mr. Cortopassi, who is a second-year student at Michigan State Law School, is expected to surrender voluntarily, Mr. Morgenthau said at a press conference yesterday. If convicted of the top count in the two indictments, first-degree money laundering, Mr. Bergrin and Mr. Cortopassi would face a maximum sentence of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison. Only Mr. Bergrin and Mr. Cortopassi were accused of the most serious charges, having an ownership interest in NY Confidential. The indictment accused them of involvement with the agency for six months in the latter part of 2004, a period during which prosecutors said the company took in $1.2 million worth of business. But in January 2005, Jason Itzler, who had been the service’s manager, was arrested. He subsequently pleaded guilty to money laundering and promoting prostitution, and is expected to be sentenced to 1 1/2 to 3 years during an appearance today in Manhattan Supreme Court. A second indictment alleges that Mr. Bergrin, Mr. Cortopassi, Mr. Oritz and a former escort continued to operate the business for another three months, from Jan. 12, 2005, to March 2, 2005. During that time, the agency charged $1,000 an hour for its escorts’ time, but apparently did not fare well. In January 2005, Mr. Bergrin filed incorporation papers for the service, listing himself as the person upon whom process could be served, but on March 2, 2005, he filed dissolution papers, prosecutors said. Mr. Bergrin initially represented Mr. Itzler after his arrest. The indictment accuses Mr. Bergrin of falsely stating during Mr. Itzler’s arraignment that Mr. Itzler had been working in his law office 12 to 14 hours a day for months. Additional charges Prosecutors also accuse Mr. Bergrin of misconduct as a lawyer for lying to the New Jersey Parole Board in an effort to relax restrictions on Mr. Itzler so he could manage the escort service at night. Before Mr. Itzler was arrested in connection with the escort service, he had been on parole after pleading guilty to smuggling ecstasy into Newark Liberty International Airport. To get more lenient treatment, prosecutors said, Mr. Bergrin told the parole board that Mr. Itzler had worked for him as a paralegal in a case involving a soldier who was being prosecuted for his conduct at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Mr. Bergrin submitted false paychecks to substantiate the claim, according to prosecutors. In addition to having a partial ownership interest in NY Confidential, Mr. Bergrin and his friends used the services of prostitutes working for the agency without paying for them. Instead, the costs were covered by the company, prosecutors said. Mr. Bergrin has a law practice consisting of 300 to 500 clients, said his lawyer, Mr. Tiffany. He made four trips to Iraq to defend soldiers, Mr. Tiffany added. Among his military clients were Sergeant Javal Davis, who was accused of committing abuses at Abu Ghraib, the case prosecutors said involved the false claim regarding Mr. Itzler to the New Jersey Parole Board. He also represents a soldier accused of criminally negligent homicide and dereliction of duty as a tank commander assigned to Mosul, Iraq. He is also representing Private First Class Corey Claggett, who is accused with other soldiers of staging an escape of three unarmed detainees in Iraq and killing them as they supposedly fled. According to his Web site, Mr. Bergrin was born in Brooklyn and graduated from Brooklyn College. He received his law degree from the Nova University Law School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and served two tours in the Army. He worked in the office of the Essex County Prosecutor and the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey. He was a partner at Pope, Bergrin & Verdesco from 1990 to 2005, when he established the Law Office of Paul W. Bergrin in Newark. Daniel Wise can be reached at [email protected]

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