Tobacco lawsuit dollars tracked

Tobacco lawsuit dollars tracked

There are 1 comment on the The Clarion-Ledger story from Mar 29, 2009, titled Tobacco lawsuit dollars tracked. In it, The Clarion-Ledger reports that:

Federal authorities who have been investigating judicial bribery cases in Mississippi are interested in the trail of money that leads from tobacco settlement expenses.

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Genav

Jacksonville, FL

#1 May 22, 2009
I apologize, this should have been the begining of the article.

Tobacco lawsuit dollars tracked
Authorities look at expenses related to Scruggs settlement
Jerry Mitchell [email protected] March 29, 2009

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Federal authorities who have been investigating judicial bribery cases in Mississippi are interested in the trail of money that leads from tobacco settlement expenses.

Dickie Scruggs, who pleaded guilty in two judicial bribery schemes, is cooperating with federal authorities. He earned $1 billion as chief negotiator of the tobacco settlement.

Scruggs' attorney, John Keker of San Francisco, denied federal authorities are exploring the matter.

Last week, a federal grand jury questioned witnesses regarding P.L. Blake, who earned $50 million from tobacco settlement expenses.

Five years ago, two attorneys, Alwyn Luckey and Bob Wilson, raised questions about some of those tobacco settlement expenses in their litigation against Scruggs, their former law partner.

Their attorney, Charlie Merkel of Clarksdale, said what they found in documents detailing the payments for tobacco settlement expenses was a veritable maze. "We tried to follow it and got dumb answers," he said. "We couldn't go much beyond that."

Questioned under oath by Merkel, Scruggs said Blake was paid for his extensive political network "throughout the state and really throughout the country that would give us that heads-up information."

Blake testified he earned the money by clipping newspapers and keeping his ear to the ground for Scruggs.

Scruggs has been quoted as saying some of the tobacco settlement expenses went to "people who are lobbyists, but they're not really registered lobbyists. It's really sort of the dark side of the force."

In 1988, Blake pleaded no contest to a federal charge he offered bribes to Mississippi Bank officials in exchange for preferential treatment in securing loans. According to that indictment, he, his wife and their companies received $21 million in about 40 loans and renewals from the bank, which went belly up.

After he and other attorneys combed through documents, Merkel said, he questioned Scruggs regarding the various names they found.

"I was going through every name I could come up with that Scruggs had charged off to the tobacco litigation expense when there was no conceivable reason for that person to draw from that litigation," Merkel said.

The reason he was quizzing Scruggs along those lines, he said, was if payments "were made for something that was not a legitimate expense," those payments couldn't be deducted from the legal fees that Scruggs owed his former partners.

Merkel said he got different answers, depending on whom he questioned.

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