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Perry S. Reich, a New York attorney accused of forging a federal magistrate judge order and lying to the government, was making a “last-ditch effort” to squeeze money out of a brokerage firm he was in litigation with, a federal prosecutor told jurors Tuesday. The accusation came during opening statements in the trial of Reich, a 56-year-old Lindenhurst, Long Island, attorney and part-time professor whose indictment surprised members of the legal community who knew him for his wide-ranging practice, including defense work for convicted killer Joel Steinberg, and his unblemished record. Reich, who faces 20 years in prison, is a partner at Schapiro & Reich and was once a law assistant to former Court of Appeals Judge Vito J. Titone and clerk for former Court of Appeals Judge Jacob D. Fuchsberg. Richard J. Sgarlato, one of Reich’s lawyers, told jurors, “This prosecution is more bogus than the document they are showing you is forged.” Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter N. Katz told the 12 jurors and three alternates that phone records and expert testimony on fax transmissions would prove that Reich faxed a fake order — which included the purported signature of Magistrate Judge Roanne L. Mann — to Joel Davidson, the attorney representing the brokerage firm, Ryan Beck & Co. Sgarlato countered that Reich had attempted to call Davidson at the time the fax was allegedly sent, but accidentally dialed his fax number. He said that call lasted three minutes because Reich’s phone did not hang up when he thought it had. Ryan Beck had purchased the assets of another firm called Gruntal, which went bankrupt and cost Reich his life’s savings, according to Sgarlato. In the fake order, the magistrate judge supposedly barred two brothers from arbitrating similar claims against Ryan Beck and she allegedly said she would recuse herself from the case because she had previously failed to be impartial. Katz said Reich had written the ruling in such a way that it favored Ryan Beck and would seem as if Davidson had forged it, even using one of Davidson’s signature phrases: “Mixing apples and oranges.” The hope, Katz said, was to embarrass Davidson and have Magistrate Judge Mann hold the prank against him. Ryan Beck had sued Reich and 12 other plaintiffs who were seeking arbitration against Ryan Beck, and it had sought a writ of mandamus from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to compel the magistrate judge to issue an injunction in the case. Despite the document’s flaws and oddities — much of its text is crooked and the magistrate judge allegedly admitted to approaching the case with “unwarranted zeal” — Davidson sent it to his clients, other attorneys and the 2nd Circuit. The next day, June 18, 2003, Mann’s clerk alerted attorneys that the document was fake. Katz said an expert from Hewlett-Packard would explain why the call could not have been a simple case of dialing a wrong number and then attempting to hang up. He added that Reich lied to federal investigators and an FBI agent. Sgarlato, however, contended that Reich had no motive to forge a document that was favorable to Ryan Beck. Instead, he said, it was more likely that someone at Davidson’s firm was playing a joke on a new attorney who had recently started working there. “This order is a joke,” Sgarlato said. “No judge would write such an order.” Sgarlato also assailed the investigatory tactics of an FBI agent, who he said had bullied Reich and threatened to shoot one of his dogs. Sgarlato said the FBI and the government admitted this week that the fake faxed order is not an original, but a copy, and that they do not have the original. He said the alleged time of transmission of the documents has been inconsistent as the investigation has progressed. Eastern District of New York Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis is presiding over the case.

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