14 charged in insider trading case

November 5, 2009 11:58:36 AM PST
Federal prosecutors say criminal charges have been filed against 14 people, including attorneys and Wall Street professionals, in a widening $25 million insider trading case. Criminal charges have been filed against 14 people, including attorneys and Wall Street professionals, in a widening $53 million insider trading case that has already snared one of the richest men in America, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

The actions raise to 20 the number of people who have been charged in the case first disclosed last month with the arrests of Galleon Group founder and hedge fund operator Raj Rajaratnam and five others.

At the time, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara called the first arrests "a wakeup call for Wall Street."

"Today the alarm bells have only grown louder," he said at a news conference Thursday.

Bharara said that total profits alleged by prosecutors was $40 million while the Securities and Exchange Commission raised the total to $53 million, saying it includes millions in profits not described in the criminal complaints.

He said he knew people would ask if the insider trading case was the tip of the iceberg of illicit trading on Wall Street.

"We don't have an answer to that but we aim to find out," he said.

He said eight people were arrested Thursday on securities fraud charges and another five have already pleaded guilty are are cooperating. Another person is still at large, he said.

A bail hearing for Rajaratnam, who is free on $100 million bail and has been listed among the nation's richest people, was scheduled for later Thursday.

Rajaratnam has denied through his lawyer participating in the scheme to use inside information to trade stocks at a profit ahead of public announcements.

In court papers, new details about the alleged scheme emerged to show how the government built its case.

According to papers filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Zvi Goffer operated an insider trading network in 2007 and 2008 that included a lawyer who fed tips gleaned from his firm's work on acquisition deals.

Goffer worked at Shottenfeld Group LLC in Manhattan in 2007 and at Galleon Group for the first nine months of 2008 before he started his own trading firm, the papers said. He is 32 and lives in New York City.

The papers put Goffer in a central role. It was not immediately clear who would represent him at an initial court appearance.

A criminal complaint prepared by FBI Agent David Makol said Goffer paid others to obtain secrets about public companies' planned merger and acquisition activity that he then used to execute profitable securities trades.

The complaint said Goffer provided conspirators with prepaid cellular telephones so they could communicate in a way that reduced their chance of detection by law enforcement.

Among those who fed him tips that reached Goffer was Arthur Cutillo, a lawyer with Ropes & Gray, a law firm that held secrets regarding mergers and acquisitions, the complaint said. The tips included information about the announcement in September 2007 that Bain Capital Partners LLC would acquire 3Com, a technology company, the court papers said.

According to the complaint, Cutillo, 33, of Ridgefield, N.J., fed tips to another lawyer, Jason Goldfarb, who relayed them to Goffer. Goldfarb, 31, lives in Manhattan.

It was not immediately clear who would represent the defendants in court.

In a statement, Ropes & Gray said it was "deeply disappointed to learn about this situation, which suggests an extreme breach of this person's duty of trust to our clients and to the firm."

It added: "We cannot comment in detail on an ongoing investigation but we are moving quickly to protect our clients and are cooperating fully with authorities."

The complaint said the government broke the case with the help of a confidential informant and three court-authorized wiretaps, including one on Goffer's cellphone that captured conversations in 2007 and 2008 and another on Goldfarb's phone.

The informant, who executed trades based on insider information while working at a hedge fund, has cooperated with the FBI since July 2007 and has agreed to plead guilty to charges of conspiracy and securities fraud in the hopes of getting leniency, the complaint said.

The U.S. attorney in Manhattan, the FBI and the Securities and Exchange Commission scheduled a midday news conference Thursday to discuss the case.

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