Federal prosecutors said that they might expand their fraud investigation of class action law firm Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman, according to published reports.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the case may grow to include the firm's use of expert witnesses in hundreds of cases, and that the crimes reportedly involve fraudulent billing.

This week, Los Angeles U.S. District Judge John F. Walter also set a trial date of Jan. 8, 2008.

In May, government lawyers charged New York-based Milberg Weiss and two former partners with paying illegal kickbacks of at least $11.3 million over 25 years to clients who agreed to act as plaintiffs. According to the indictment, the firm hid the payments by making them in cash or through intermediary law firms.

Founding partner Melvyn Weiss has denounced the indictment as "unjust" and vowed to vigorously defend the firm. Both of the partners have pleaded not guilty. Since the May indictment, the firm has closed two of its four offices in the wake of attorney defections while other plaintiffs' firms have mounted legal challenges to Milberg's status as lead counsel in ongoing class actions.

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