Cristina Arguedas.
Cristina Arguedas. (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)

SAN FRANCISCO — The former Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld partner accused of peddling a sealed whistleblower complaint to a company facing a False Claims Act lawsuit has brought on a heavy hitter in the Bay Area white-collar defense bar to handle his case.

Jeffrey Wertkin.

Jeffrey Wertkin, who was arrested at a hotel in Cupertino, California, on Jan. 31, has hired Cristina Arguedas of Arguedas, Cassman & Headley.

Arguedas and her team have handled high-profile criminal cases on behalf of former San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds, FedEx Corp., and executives at Backpage.com.

Wertkin, who handled False Claims Act cases while working for the Department of Justice prior to joining Akin Gump in April 2016, has been accused of attempting to sell a copy of a sealed whistleblower complaint for $310,000 to an undisclosed Silicon Valley technology security company. According to a criminal complaint unsealed on Feb. 6, Wertkin was arrested while wearing a wig after handing a copy of the complaint to an undercover FBI agent, The complaint claims that Wertkin said, “My life is over” shortly after he was taken into custody.

Arguedas and her colleagues Ted Cassman and Julie Salamon entered appearances on behalf of Wertkin late last week.

Arguedas and her team have recently racked up a string of significant wins when pitted against federal and state prosecutors in California. In June, less than a week after Arguedas made opening arguments on behalf of FedEx, federal prosecutors abruptly dropped their $1.6 billion case accusing the company of conspiring with illegal online pharmacies to ship addictive prescription painkillers without face-to-face doctor visits. In December, the defense lawyers won a ruling from a state court judge in Sacramento dismissing online brothel charges against former Backpage.com shareholders Michael Lacey and James Larkin.

Reached by email Monday, Arguedas declined to comment on Wertkin’s case.

Contact the reporter at rtodd@alm.com.

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