It took seven years, but Los Angeles federal prosecutors are finally on the verge of putting famed plaintiffs lawyer William Lerach in federal prison.
Several people briefed on the case said Monday that Lerach and the prosecutors had agreed on a binding deal in which Lerach’s lawyers would ask for a sentence of 12 months and prosecutors would seek 24 months.
If U.S. District Judge John Walter does not want to sentence Lerach within that range, the deal would be scuttled.
The agreement, said people familiar with the case, would have Lerach pay a fine of $8 million, and would get his former firm — now known as Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins — out from under the investigation.
Lerach announced late last month that he would be retiring. He left the firm on Aug. 29.
Lerach has been the target of L.A. federal prosecutors since 2000, when a Beverly Hills ophthalmologist aiming to lessen his prison sentence for insurance fraud told the government that he had been given illegal kickbacks by Lerach while serving as a lead plaintiff in securities class actions.
Steven Cooperman’s information sparked a wide-ranging probe of Lerach and his former law firm, which is now known as Milberg Weiss. (Lerach split from that firm in 2004 to start San Diego-based Lerach Couglin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins.)