Arledge loses U.S. appeal of conviction

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Vicksburg attorney Robert Arledge’s 2007 conviction on conspiracy and mail and wire fraud charges involving a diet drug was upheld Monday by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The verdict had been challenged by Arledge’s attorneys who said key pieces of evidence were not allowed at trial and exhibits that were allowed were insufficient. They lost on those claims.

However, his lawyers also argued part of the $5.8 million restitution the onetime Warren County judicial candidate was ordered to pay was excessive because three claims against drug maker Wyeth totaling $54,000 and deemed false were indeed legitimate. The three-member appeals panel agreed the district court should study the restitution amount.

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After the trial, held in Jackson, U.S. District Judge David Bramlette sentenced Arledge to 6 1/2 years in prison for knowingly allowing clients to make false claims to a $3 billion claims settlement fund the drug maker, then known as American Home Products, had established for those who had taken the drug Fen-Phen and been harmed. Federal prosecutors said Arledge’s false claims cost the company more than $6.7 million. Jurors acquitted Arledge of 17 counts of money laundering.

A 2006 FBI raid on Arledge’s Turning Leaf subdivision home for evidence led to months of speculation if the government’s probe of the claims against the makers of Fen-Phen — pulled from shelves by the Food and Drug Administration in 1997 after research showed it caused heart problems — would include other attorneys.

Part of Arledge’s defense concerning evidence kept from jurors dealt with clients of other lawyers, ostensibly an attempt to show other attorneys represented potentially fraudulent claims. Although more than a dozen claimants who received at least $250,000 each have admitted their claims were false, no other attorneys have been charged.

The appellate court concluded Bramlette had the authority to exclude evidence if he was concerned it would mislead the jury.

“Evidence that a similarly-situated attorney had pursued what turned out to be false claims has no bearing on whether Arledge had either actual knowledge of the fraud or was deliberately indifferent to the fraud,” the court wrote. “That another attorney may also have been engaged or been deliberately indifferent to fraud would not eliminate Arledge’s liability. The district court therefore did not abuse its discretion when it excluded a large number of documents not directly related to the charges, especially given the court’s belief that the evidence would mislead the jury.”

Use of federal sentencing guidelines on cases of wire fraud most recent to the time of the trial was upheld by the appeals court because acts of fraud and conspiracy lasted into 2002, past the deadline for using the 2001 rules.

In 2002, Arledge ran unsuccessfully for judge of Warren County Court and Warren County Youth Court.

He began serving his sentence in an Alabama federal prison in January and has lost his license to practice in Mississippi.


Contact Danny Barrett Jr. at