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Three Lawyers from New York Charged with Bribery Scheme Involving Criminal Justice Agency Staffer
On Monday, three criminal defense attorneys and a paralegal were arraigned in a case that stems from them conspiring to pay off Manhattan Criminal Court staff members to have cases sent to them, according to The New York Daily News.

The lawyers were charged in two indictments for crimes committed in the conspiracy that lasted for more than one year. The lawyers indicted are Dwane Smith, 56, Benjamin Yu, 36, and Jae Lee, 41. The paralegal charged in the case is that of Jose Nunez, 47.

A Criminal Justice Agency staff member, who has not been identified, used “his position within the court system to persuade” wealthy defendants to hire Yu and Lee, according to the first of two indictments in the case.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said that the staffer would recommend that the defendants hire the lawyers after he analyzed them to see if they could afford private lawyers. He would promise the defendants that those lawyers would get them seen by judges quicker.

Yu received 100 clients from the staffer, charging them $1,500 per arraignment. Lee acquired 13 clients through the staffer.

The staffer received some $30,000 in bribes for steering the defendants to those attorneys.

The scheme began between Yu and Nunez, but Lee was added when the original pair felt they were being surveilled in May.

Yu had Lee take care of the clients so he could distance himself from the scheme, according to the DA.

The staffer was caught on tape being told to avoid detection by Smith, who was also caught on videotape paying a bribe to the staffer.

“I’m careful on my end, you be careful on your end … That’s the key, right man …. we work together, we got a common goal, man. When I make money, you make money, right?” Smith said, according to the district attorney.

Andres Aranda, the lawyer for Yu, said, “My client is a member of the bar, presumed to be innocent. He's an American citizen, somebody you see every day in this courthouse.”

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