A federal prosecutor promised Friday that evidence would paint "a dark picture of greed" at the racketeering trial of E. Robert Wallach, the ex-lawyer of former Attorney General Edwin Meese III.
In his opening statement to the jury, Assistant U.S. Attorney Baruch Weiss said Wallach and two other defendants had turned the now-defunct Wedtech Corp. into "a vehicle for their own personal financial gain."But a defense attorney countered later that the bulk of the government's case was based on the testimony of corrupt ex-Wedtech executives with "a history of deceiving and lying."
Wallach, ex-Meese financial adviser W. Franklyn Chinn and Chinn's business associate, R. Kent London, are charged in a 21-count racketeering indictment with taking more than $1 million from the one-time defense contractor in phony consultants' fees and payoffs - including $525,000 allegedly paid to Wallach to influence Meese and other government officials.
Weiss said Wallach, 57, of San Francisco, had gone to law school with Meese and they were "very close friends."
Wallach, who expected to get a high government job after Meese became attorney general in the Reagan administration, had a secret agreement with Wedtech, Weiss said.
"Wallach, in effect, agreed to be Wedtech's mole in the federal government," he added.
Wallach's lawyer, Gary Naftalis, conceded that Wallach and Meese were good friends but he called them "a political odd couple" because Meese was a staunch conservative while Wallach was "a bleeding heart liberal."
The lawyer attacked former Wedtech officials, who already have pleaded guilty to corruption charges and will testify for the government.
Naftalis said Wallach was as much a victim of the greed and dishonesty of Wedtech executives as were investors and employees.
Wallach "fell for the Wedtech dream hook, line and sinker," said the defense lawyer.
Once a small South Bronx machine shop, Wedtech grew into a $100 million government contractor through a special Small Business Administration program that set aside contracts without competitive bidding for minority-controlled companies.