WHEELING – West Virginians paying $53,670.62 for expenses of private lawyers in Visa and MasterCard litigation won't know where or how the lawyers spent the money, unless Ohio County Circuit Judge Ronald Wilson decides to find out.

Wilson on Aug. 20 approved a settlement that bestowed a sales tax holiday on certain products, but he withheld approval of a motion for $3.9 million in fees and expenses.

Special assistants to Attorney General Darrell McGraw, expecting routine approval, had submitted their motion a day before the hearing.

They squeezed years of air fare, hotels, meals and other expenses into line items.

They billed more than $14,000 for flights, more than $9,000 for hotels and more than $1,000 for meals with no substantiation.

It reveals at least that they reached a settlement in Pittsburgh, last September.

By contrast, Tom Flaherty of Charleston submitted more than 100 sheets with the bill he sent West Virginia University for prying $4 million out of its former football coach.

McGraw's special assistants offered even less detail for $197,844.87 in expert costs.

"The vast majority of these costs were for the expert economists at Charles River Associates, Dr. Franklin Fisher and Craig Romaine," they wrote.

Deducting the experts and other expenses from the $3.9 million total, they sought $3,648,484.51 in fees.

"The appointed Special Assistant Attorneys General in this case have invested hundreds of hours in litigating this case, and would have invested thousands more hours had settlement not matured," they wrote.

Teresa Toriseva of Wheeling signed the motion on behalf of Guy Bucci and Timothy Bailey of Charleston, Jonathan Cuneo and Daniel Cohen of Washington, and George Sampson of Seattle.

At a hearing in Wheeling on Aug. 20, Wilson surprised them by hearing an objection from local resident Steve Cohen, director of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.

Cohen asked Wilson to divide the fees according to the work each lawyer performed.

Wilson said he would rule within 30 days.

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