Melvyn Weiss, former partner in the law firm Milberg Weiss, has agreed to plead guilty to a racketeering charge accusing him of paying kickbacks to plaintiffs in class-action cases.

Weiss's firm represented plaintiffs in a number of high-profile cases, including suits against PricewaterhouseCoopers over its Tyco audits and against KPMG over its tax shelters.

Weiss, 72, was accused of concealing secret payment arrangements with named plaintiffs in class-action lawsuits. Under a plea deal, he agreed to serve between 18 and 33 months in prison. Prosecutors plan to ask U.S. District Judge John F. Walter to impose the maximum term after Weiss formally pleads guilty. Weiss has also agreed to forfeit $9.7 million and to pay a fine of $250,000.

"I deeply regret my conduct and apologize to all those who have been affected, including all of the wonderful and extremely talented lawyers and other employees of the firm, none of whom had any involvement in any wrongdoing," Weiss said in a statement.

Former Milberg Weiss partners William S. Lerach, David J. Bershad and Steven G. Schulman have previously pleaded guilty in the case. They admitted their roles in a scheme that paid millions of dollars in secret kickbacks to several individuals in exchange for them serving as named plaintiffs in more than 225 class-action and shareholder derivative-action lawsuits filed across the U.S. Lerach pleaded guilty last year to a conspiracy charge and was sentenced last month to two years in federal prison. Sentencing for Schulman and Bershad is scheduled for later this year.

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