By Brendan Pierson
(Reuters) - A lawyer defending Platinum Partners founder Mark Nordlicht against fraud charges said on Monday an FBI agent who admitted to leaking to the press on an insider trading probe of sports gambler William "Billy" Walters may also have leaked about Platinum.
At a hearing in Brooklyn federal court before U.S. District Judge Dora Irizarry, lawyer William Burck said he planned to file a motion related to the leaks, in which he may seek to dismiss the charges against Nordlicht.
Burck said leaks could have contributed to the decline of Platinum's value, which is a key part of the prosecutors' case.
U.S. prosecutors in December charged Nordlicht and six other executives at the hedge fund management firm with running a $1 billion "Ponzi-like" fraud in which they overvalued assets and selectively paid some investors ahead of others. All have pleaded not guilty.
Platinum was known for producing exceptionally high returns - about 17 percent annually in its largest fund. Platinum and its executives are also facing civil fraud charges from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and Platinum's funds have been placed under the control of a court-appointed receiver.
At Monday's hearing, Burck did not provide specifics about the alleged leaks or name the FBI agent, though the agent has been identified in connection with Walters' case as David Chaves.
One of the prosecutors at the hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alicyn Cooley, said the government was taking Burck's leak claims seriously and investigating them.
Prosecutors are investigating Chaves in connection with the leaks in the Walters' case. Sean Casey, a lawyer for Chaves, declined to comment on Burck's claims.
A representative of the Federal Bureau of Investigation also could not immediately be reached.
Walters, who is currently on trial in Manhattan federal court, sought unsuccessfully to have the charges against him dismissed because of Chaves' leaks.
Chaves is also among several FBI agents being sued by hedge fund founder David Ganek, who claims the agency lied in obtaining a search warrant against him in 2010. Ganek's fund, Level Global, shut down soon after being raided by the FBI in an insider trading investigation. Ganek was never charged.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments last week over whether to dismiss that case.
The case is U.S. v. Nordlicht et al, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, No. 16-cr-640.
(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Andrew Hay)