Wednesday, November 9, 2011

US denies retaliation in prosecution of defense lawyer

Federal investigators began targeting prominent attorney Robert A. George only after they were approached by an informant in February 2009, who said George had offered to help him launder money, according to court records filed yesterday in US District Court in Boston.

The records also deny that a high-ranking member of the US attorney's office had any involvement in the investigation, countering George's contention that his case is retaliation by the government for his representation of a client who allegedly proposed killing a prosecutor a decade ago.

The prosecutor, Jack W. Pirozzolo, was named acting first assistant United States attorney only in November 2009, after the investigation began, and he had no role in it, the US attorney's office said in court records.

The records stated that Pirozzolo's only involvement in George's case was that he was made aware of another supervisor's approval to indict George, and that he and another member of his office raised questions with a judge about George's potential conflict of interest in the representation of other defendants in the courthouse.

"Thus, it was almost 16 months following commencement of the instant investigation that . . . Pirozzolo had any involvement with the case, and this peripheral involvement did not affect any investigative or prosecutive decisions,'' prosecutors said in court documents.

"There is no evidence to demonstrate any animus by the government toward the defendant.''

The records were filed by prosecutors in opposition to George's request for an evidentiary hearing in his case, in which he accused the government of a vindictive prosecution against him.

The well-known defense lawyer has represented a wide variety of clients, including members of the New England Mafia and the trash collector convicted of the notorious Cape Cod murder of fashion writer Christa Worthington. George is charged with conspiring to launder money and money laundering in allegedly conspiring to "clean'' a former client's drug profits. The former client, according to court records, was working as a confidential informant for federal investigators.

George is also charged with structuring transactions to evade reporting requirements after he received $25,000 from another individual, a prospective client, and allegedly made two bank deposits of less than $10,000 to avoid documentation of the money. The prospective client was in fact a Drug Enforcement Administration agent pretending to be a drug dealer from the Dominican Republic.

Lawyers for George argue that the information they expect to find in an evidentiary hearing will show an abuse of power by prosecutors in targeting George.

The lawyers argue that Pirozzolo was involved in the decision to target George and that his office was retaliating against him for his representation of a client who proposed killing the prosecutor. The client was found guilty of plotting the murders of witnesses in his initial fraud case more than a decade ago, but he was never charged with plotting the death of Pirozzolo.

George's lawyers, prominent attorneys Robert Goldstein and Kevin Reddington, also challenged the government's use of the confidential informant in the money-laundering case.

They say that the witness, identified in court records as Ronald Dardinski, may have entrapped George in the investigation to curry favor with investigations. The lawyers argue that Dardinski's credibility has been tainted by his alleged attempts to launder money while under supervision by investigators.

But prosecutors said in court records yesterday that George's request is "completely devoid of merit.''

The records include an affidavit by Joseph Tamuleviz, a special agent with the DEA, which states that he was first approached by Dardinski in February 2009 and that Dardinski reported "he had recently seen the defendant and the defendant had offered to launder his money.'' Tamuleviz does not identify Dardinski by name.

Also, assistant US attorney Laura J. Kaplan filed an affidavit stating that Pirozzolo had no involvement in the case and that "I have been the lead prosecutor on this case throughout the investigation and prosecution.''

By Milton J. Valencia, Globe staff,, Twitter - @miltonvalencia

Source: The Boston Globe

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