FBI Targets Miss. Lawyer Known for Handling Katrina Insurance Claims

November 29, 2007

FBI agents who searched the law offices of Mississippi attorney Richard “Dickie” Scruggs on Tuesday left with copies of the office’s computer hard drives, a lawyer for the firm said Wednesday.

Joey Langston, who represents Scruggs’ firm but isn’t an employee, said the agents were looking for a document with an “ancillary” connection to lawsuits that Scruggs’ firm has filed against insurance companies over their handling of Hurricane Katrina claims.

“Whatever documents they were searching for, they didn’t find,” said Langston, who has expressed confidence that federal authorities are “acting on information that will prove to be inaccurate and untrue.”

The search of Scruggs’ Oxford office, by at least seven FBI agents and federal prosecutors, lasted from around 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to Langston. Other than “mirroring” the computer hard drives, the agents didn’t remove anything from the office, the lawyer said Wednesday.

Langston declined to describe in detail the document that federal law enforcement officials were seeking.

“All we know is that some type of investigation is being conducted,” he said.

Langston ruled out any connection between the search and criminal contempt allegations that Scruggs and his firm face in Alabama.

In June, U.S. District Judge William Acker in Birmingham, Ala., ruled Scruggs willfully defied a court order to return all the documents he obtained from two sisters who helped State Farm Insurance Cos. adjust claims on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast after Katrina. Acker appointed special prosecutors to handle the case after U.S. Attorney Alice Martin declined to prosecute Scruggs.

On Tuesday, the FBI’s Jackson office said in a statement that the warrant was issued “in furtherance of an ongoing investigation.” On Wednesday, an FBI spokeswoman wouldn’t elaborate on that statement.

Langston said U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers Jr. in Oxford issued the search warrant.

Scruggs, whose brother-in-law is Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., earned millions from asbestos litigation and from his role in brokering a multibillion dollar settlement with tobacco companies in the mid-1990s. After Katrina hit on Aug. 29, 2005, the Gulf Coast native sued insurers on behalf of hundreds of policyholders whose claims were denied after the storm.

Topics USA Agencies Claims Mississippi

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