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Denver lawyer could prove a valuable witness
By Al Lewis, Staff Columnist
Denver Post
Friday, September 21, 2007

A prominent Denver criminal defense lawyer may emerge as a witness in the prosecution of the notorious securities attorney Melvin Weiss.

Gary Lozow -- lawyer to the parents of Dylan Klebold after the Columbine massacre and the Rev. Acen Phillips, who is now in the news for alleged insurance fraud -- may know something the feds would like to bring against Weiss.

"The government has indicated to us that Mr. Lozow might be a witness in a trial on these matters," said Lozow's lawyer John Walsh of Hill & Robbins.

"If he is subpoenaed, Mr. Lozow will tell the truth," said Walsh, a former federal prosecutor.

Lozow would be testifying against one of the most reviled lawyers in corporate America.  Weiss, 72, who was indicted in Los Angeles on Thursday, pioneered the dreaded class-action shareholders lawsuit.

Prosecutors say Weiss' firm, Milberg Weiss, has bagged about $250 million in fees over the last 25 years by suing companies for fraud on behalf of shareholders.

Unfortunately, it appears Weiss and some of his associates like to cheat as much as the corporate thugs they sue.

Prosecutors allege that Weiss and his partners have paid people secret kickbacks to become plaintiffs in more than 150 lawsuits against corporations.

If this is true, their lead plaintiffs didn't sue for justice.  They just got paid to sign on to lawsuits -- something judges didn't know when they decided the cases.

"The indictment outlines a decades-long kickback scheme that was deliberately concealed from courts across the nation," said George Cardona, the U.S. attorney for Los Angeles.

Weiss' attorney said his client will plead not guilty.

Also on Thursday, former Milberg Weiss partner Steven Schulman agreed to plead guilty to a racketeering charge involving this kickback scheme.

And earlier this week, Weiss' former partner, William Lerach, agreed to plead guilty to a conspiracy charge.

Lerach led shareholders litigation against Enron and Denver-based Qwest.

"I have always fought for my clients ... to hold powerful corporations responsible when their actions harmed people," Lerach said in a statement.  "I regrettably crossed a line and pushed too far."

In July, Milberg Weiss partner David Bershad also agreed to a guilty plea.

Weiss, who has been hit with four counts of conspiracy, racketeering, obstruction of justice and making false statements, faces a possible 40-year prison sentence.

His attorney vows to fight:  "We are confident that when the evidence is carefully reviewed at a trial of these charges, Mr. Weiss will be fully exonerated," Benjamin Brafman said.

Milberg Weiss, the firm, also has been charged and said it will fight.  This is where Lozow may come in handy.

Turns out one of Lozow's clients, Howard Vogel of Englewood, N.J., and Florida, was one of Milberg Weiss' paid plaintiffs.

Last year, when Vogel pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement in court, federal prosecutors chalked up their first victory in their seven-year investigation of Milberg Weiss.

In his pleading, Vogel said he and his family took nearly $2.5 million in kickbacks from Milberg Weiss in exchange for being the lead plaintiffs in 40 cases against companies including Valero Energy Corp. and Oxford Health Plans between 1991 and 2005.

Vogel claimed that some of this money was funneled to him through his Denver attorney.  Last year, The Recorder, a legal newspaper in California, identified the attorney as Lozow.

Lozow declined to comment.

Paul Selzer, an attorney who allegedly acted as an intermediary for illegal kickbacks to another allegedly paid plaintiff, was also indicted.

But Lozow was not.

Lozow -- regularly in the news for defending murderers and white-collar criminals -- would seem an attractive target for prosecutors.  But he's also an attractive witness.  Or perhaps circumstances are not at all what they seem.

Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, declined to comment.  But Walsh, Lozow's attorney, indicated Lozow may be in the clear.

"I don't have any reason to believe that he is going to be charged," Walsh said.

Al Lewis' column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Respond to him at denverpostbloghouse.com/lewis, 303-954-1967 or alewis@denverpost.com.

http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_6952946