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Founder of Trump defense firm indicted in Somali fraud case

Saturday May 11, 2024
By William Bredderman

A name partner at the law office swooping into a Trump campaign pregnancy discrimination case stands accused of forgery and siphoning off Somali sovereign wealth.

Jeenah Moon/Getty Images

The federal judge overseeing a pregnancy discrimination case against Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign approved a bid by the ex-president and his team to switch to new legal counsel—bringing in a Maryland law firm where a top partner stands accused of bilking millions belonging to the nation of Somalia.

Judge Katharine Parker signed off Wednesday on the replacement of the Trump camp’s old representation, LaRocca, Hornik, Greenberg, Kittredge, Carlin & McPartland, with a lawyer from the firm Schulman Bhattacharya, LLC. The previous defense team asked to abandon the ex-president and his former top advisers in the lawsuit earlier this month, citing an “irreparable breakdown in the attorney-client relationship” in the suit, which GOP operative Arlene “A.J.” Delgado first brought in 2019, alleging that campaign leadership stripped her of responsibilities after married adviser Jason Miller impregnated her.

Parker initially rejected the law firm’s abdication, but ultimately allowed the campaign to swap in Schulman Bhattacharya, LLC, which did not respond to The Daily Beast’s requests for comment. But while the firm’s attorney Jeffrey Gavenman will be defending Trump, Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, and Sean Spicer, one of the founding partners at his firm will be fighting to keep himself out of prison.

In late 2020, the Department of Justice charged Jeremy Schulman, half the eponymous team behind the firm, with using forged documents to gain access to $12.5 million in Somali state assets that the East African nation’s central bank had ordered frozen amid the country’s incessant civil war. The feds allege that, beginning in 2009, Schulman—then a shareholder in a different firm cooperating with prosecutors—and his co-conspirators used these falsified materials to persuade financial institutions and the New York State Comptroller that they could legally take possession of the nation’s sovereign investments as representatives for its transitional government. In the process, prosecutors say Schulman skimmed off $3.3 million in fees and expenses for his firm.

Today, Schulman Bhattacharya LLC’s webpage unabashedly touts Schulman’s work for, in, and around Somalia. And Gavenman, the new Trump campaign attorney, ferociously defended his colleague and his firm in a court filing from Delgado’s allusions to the partner’s legal problems in an objection to the substitution.

“Plaintiff attempts to smear, by association, an entire law firm and the undersigned. This insinuation, based on mere allegations against one member of Schulman Bhattacharya, LLC, is unprofessional and borders on incredulous,” Gavenman wrote in a letter to the judge. “Notwithstanding what may come of the allegations in the indictment, Mr. Schulman is presumed innocent, and his immaculate professional reputation and record show such presumption is not only mandatory but well-earned.”

Gavenman additionally highlighted Schulman’s latest bid to get the indictment dismissed based on claimed misconduct by prosecutors, who the partner alleges presented “false and misleading testimony” to the grand jury. Schulman has continued to practice law while under indictment.


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