U.S. charges 7 in $62 million Dell insider-trading case

Wed Jan 18, 2012 6:26pm EST
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By Basil Katz and Grant McCool

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors charged seven people, described as a circle of friends who formed a criminal club, with running a $62 million insider trading scheme - the latest salvo in a years-long probe of suspicious trading at hedge funds.

The FBI in New York arrested four people on Wednesday and authorities announced previously secret charges against three others, making it one of the largest sweeps in the government's investigation.

The seven charged worked for five different hedge funds and investment firms and reaped nearly $62 million in illegal profits on trades in Dell Inc, the prosecutors said. That is similar in magnitude to insider trading gains made by Raj Rajaratnam, the convicted founder of the Galleon Group hedge fund.

The charging document told "by now, a sadly familiar story," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said at a news conference.

"It describes a circle of friends who essentially formed a criminal club, whose purpose was profit and whose members regularly bartered lucrative inside information," Bharara said.

Dubbed "Operation Perfect Hedge" by the FBI, the probe has examined suspected sharing of confidential business information with hedge fund managers and analysts. Rajaratnam was arrested as part of the investigation and is now serving an 11-year prison term following his conviction by jury trial last year.

The defendants arrested on Wednesday include Anthony Chiasson, who co-founded the Level Global Investors hedge fund. He turned himself in to the FBI in New York, an agency spokesman said. A U.S. magistrate judge released him on $5 million bail during a brief appearance in Manhattan federal court. Chiasson was not asked to enter a plea, but his lawyer, Gregory Morvillo, said his client denied the charges.

Todd Newman, who headed technology trading for hedge fund Diamondback Capital Management from Boston, was also arrested. Diamondback said in a letter to investors on Wednesday that it had been "proactively assisting" criminal prosecutors and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in the case against Newman and another former employee, Jesse Tortora.   Continued...