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Safe for democracy.

FINALLY, MORE THAN TWO years after one of the felonies of which he is accused blew up, Little Rock attorney Keith Moser has been named in a criminal complaint.

Two criminal complaints, actually.

Everyone, even a lawyer charged with three federal crimes, is innocent until proven guilty. But it still chaps me to know that a man so deeply involved in a scheme that has already resulted in the conviction of three other people has been allowed to continue committing the practice of law on the unsuspecting people of Arkansas.

As recently as Thursday, Bobby Keith Moser was a licensed attorney "in good standing" with the state Supreme Court.

If you haven't been keeping up with the news about Moser, let me recap:

Back in November 2001, an executive of a video distribution company way up in Troy, Mich., Anchor Bay Entertainment, got some startling news from a vendor. It seems that Anchor Bay's president, a Maumelle resident named Dan F. Whitt, had been trying to get the vendor to pay $2 million to Whitt personally in exchange for $20 million worth of business from Anchor Bay.

Whitt was quickly fired, and within a few weeks, Anchor Bay had filed a civil racketeering lawsuit in federal court in Detroit alleging that at least two other vendors had been offered similar deals, and one of them had paid Whitt $592,000.

What has this got to do with Keith Moser? Well, Moser was Dan Whitt's lawyer. According to Anchor Bay's complaint, he was an active party in at least two of the kickback proposals--including making at least one trip to Michigan to meet with one of the marks and outlining one of the payment proposals on his law firm's letterhead.

Arkansas Business reported in December 2002 that Whitt and Moser were being investigated by a federal grand jury in Detroit. By then, Anchor Bay's civil case had been staved because of the criminal investigation, which is part of a bigger probe into the video reproduction and distribution industry by the Justice Department's Anti-Trust Division out of Cleveland.

After working in secret for several months, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit started taking down the conspirators one at a time.

The vendor who paid Whitt $592,000 was sentenced in December to a year in federal prison. Dan Whitt's son, former Little Rock stockbroker David Whitt, was sentenced last month to 15 months for using accounts at Merrill Lynch to transfer the payoffs. And Dan Whitt pleaded guilty last month to conspiracy to launder money and will be sentenced Feb. 26.

Through all of that, Keith Moser was able to keep his name out of the public record, with the exception of Anchor Bay's civil case. But that ended Wednesday when he was charged in Michigan with conspiracy to launder money and obstruction of justice. (Federal prosecutors said the second charge was filed because Moser spent at least seven months trying to cover his tracks by altering old documents and manufacturing new ones that were then given to the grand jury. Prosecutors really hate that kind of thing.)

But in a move that surprised even folks who were intimately familiar with Moser's legal problems in Michigan, he was simultaneously charged in U.S. District Court in Little Rock with a wholly unrelated felony: conspiracy to defraud the United States.

According to the information filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sandra Cherry, Moser helped another client--all we know at this point is it was a Little Rock executive who sold his telecommunications company to Southwestern Bell for $9 million in 1996--disguise the actual sales price in order to avoid paying capital gains taxes.

Learning of the Arkansas charge against Keith Moser reminded me of something we reported about him 14 months ago: In 2001, he was among a number of lawyers quoted by Lawyers Weekly USA who said they would not represent a defendant charged in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks:

"There is a big difference between defending a person who has been charged with what we would normally consider to be a criminal act and defending a person who has engaged in an act of war upon your country."

Patriotic words from a guy who had allegedly been helping a client rip off the federal government.

Gwen Moritz is editor of Arkansas Business. E-mail her at gmoritz@abpg.com.
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Title Annotation:Editor's Note
Author:Moritz, Gwen
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Feb 2, 2004
Words:728
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