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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former lawyer for a large U.S. law firm pleaded guilty on Monday to conspiring to launder almost $19 million for his one-time client Kenneth Starr, a money manager known for representing celebrities.
Jonathan Bristol, 55, who once practiced at Winston & Strawn LLP, admitted that he used attorney trust accounts to help Starr launder money that Starr had taken fraudulently from clients.
Manhattan federal prosecutors also said Starr used these accounts to purchase a luxury apartment in New York.
"Attorneys are supposed to promote respect for the rule of law," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. "Jonathan Bristol abused his position as a partner at a prominent New York City law firm to break the law over and over again."
Susan Kellman, a lawyer for Bristol, said her client recognized he did something wrong. He will lose his law license, she said.
"At the end of the day I think Jonathan was a gentle, trusting guy. He was an easy mark," Kellman said. "He pled guilty, which shows his sense of responsibility."
In a statement, a Winston & Strawn spokesman said Bristol's conduct "was neither authorized by nor known to others at the firm" and said the firm is cooperating with authorities.
Bristol pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to launder money, in a hearing before U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts in Manhattan federal court.
He faces a maximum of five years in prison, and he agreed to pay $18.9 million in restitution.
The Securities and Exchange Commission initiated a civil case against Bristol in December. That lawsuit is pending.
Starr, whose clients included film director Martin Scorsese and singer Carly Simon, pleaded guilty in September to committing wire fraud, money laundering and adviser fraud. He was sentenced to 7-1/2 years in prison in March.
Starr is not the same Ken Starr who led the investigation of President Bill Clinton in the affair over White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
The case is U.S. v. Bristol, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan), No. 10-01239.
Editing by Tim Dobbyn and Steve Orlofsky