Flamboyant North Jersey defense attorney Paul Bergrin paid a witness to lie about a gun charge in a case against one of his clients and had another witness killed in order to undermine a drug-trafficking case against a second client, according to an expanded racketeering indictment handed up last week.
The superseding indictment, unsealed late Monday by federal authorities, provided more details about a murder charge pending against the lawyer and added other witness-tampering, drug-trafficking, and conspiracy charges.
Bergrin, 55, has been held without bail since his arrest in 2009. The former federal prosecutor has been described by law enforcement as "house counsel" to some of the biggest drug dealers in North Jersey.
The new 33-count indictment alleges that Bergrin, "under the guise of providing legitimate attorney services," used his Newark law office as the nerve center for a cocaine-trafficking network, and that he routinely plotted murders, bribed witnesses, and obstructed investigations to protect his clients.
"No witness, no case" was the phrase authorities said he frequently used to describe his approach.
Bergrin, of Nutley, N.J., also is accused of running a $1,000-an-hour call-girl service in New York City.
The case includes the killing of an individual, identified as K.D.M., who apparently was cooperating in a drug case against one of Bergrin's clients in 2004.
Bergrin learned the identity of the witness while preparing his case and, according to the indictment, had the person killed.
The new charges also allege that in 2007, Bergrin paid an individual to falsely plead guilty to a gun-possession charge for which another of his clients had been jailed.
The unidentified client played a key role in Bergrin's drug-trafficking network, authorities said, and Bergrin wanted him freed.
The indictment alleges that Bergrin and his associates routinely sold kilogram quantities of cocaine to other major drug dealers, and at one point had $490,000 and 20 kilograms in a stash house in Newark.
The superseding indictment was announced late Monday by Paul J. Fishman, the U.S. attorney for New Jersey.
Bergrin and seven codefendants previously were charged with being part of a broad racketeering conspiracy that the latest indictment alleges began in November 2001.
Six of those codefendants, including Bergrin's longtime girlfriend, his former law partner, and an alleged drug kingpin, have pleaded guilty and are cooperating.
The expanded charges are believed to be based, in part, on information they have supplied to investigators.
Bergrin and Alejandro Barraza-Castro, 34, of Newark, an accused drug dealer, were the only defendants charged in the new indictment.