Lawyers Dwane Smith, Benjamin Yu and Jae Lee were each indicted on bribery charges for allegedly paying a court staffer to funnel cases their way, Manhattan DA Cy Vance announced Monday.
Also charged was paralegal Jose Nunez, 47, who acted as a liaison between the lawyers and the court employee.
The four men allegedly paid a Criminal Justice Agency employee, who interviews defendants prior to their arraignment, more than $40,000 for steering potential clients to Lee, Yu and Smith, according to court papers.
The CJA worker, who was not identified, was coached by Nunez to target defendants who were “wealthy and willing to pay large sums of money to get out of jail quickly” between August 2013 and September 2014, court papers stated.
He was also told to find defendants that were arrested for “vehicular offenses, like first-time DWIs and unlicensed driving, as well as low-level drug possession cases,” according to documents.
CJA workers pre-screen defendants to help determine bail conditions and speed up the arrest and arraignment process.
The four men also worked with a police officer “who would have the new client taken out of Central Booking immediately and brought to arraignments” and a court clerk “who would make sure that the new client’s case got called quickly,” prosecutors said.
Smith, 56, paid the CJA employee more than $10,000 to have more than 50 clients steered to him, court papers said.
“We work together, we got a common goal, man. When I make money, you make money, right?” Smith allegedly told the CJA worker during a meeting in Columbus Park — directly behind the Manhattan courthouse.
Meanwhile, Yu, 36, paid the CJA worker $30,000 to steer more than 100 clients to him.
More than 40 of those defendants have been identified by prosecutors.
Prosecutors said when Yu and Nunez caught wind that CJA was conducting an investigation last May, they began to steer clients to Lee, 41, “in an attempt to further insulate [Yu.]”
All four men were also indicted on charges of conspiracy and rewarding official misconduct.
The three attorneys are notorious for skulking outside the arraignment room in Manhattan Criminal Court to solicit potential clients.
Smith represents Tamira Mobley, the woman charged with giving a woman a fatal butt injection last July. And last week, Yu’s client Richard Pagani was convicted of stalking CBS anchor Diane Macedo.
A Disciplinary Committee will probe whether to pull the three attorneys’ licenses to practice law.
All four pleaded not guilty at their arraignment Monday and face five to 15 years on the top bribery charge.
Bail was set at $100,000 for Smith, Nunez and Yu, while Lee was released on his own recognizance.
Vance wouldn’t comment on whether the CJA worker would be charged but said he wouldn’t continue his job in the same capacity.