UPDATE 2-Ex-Apple employee pleads guilty in kickback scheme

Mon Feb 28, 2011 9:02pm EST

* Paul Devine pleads guilty over kickbacks - U.S. Attorney

* Devine worked as a global supply manager at Apple

* Accused of taking kickbacks from suppliers

* Devine "a good man who made a mistake" - defense lawyer (Adds comments from Devine attorney and Apple, byline)

By Dan Levine

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb 28 (Reuters) - A former Apple Inc (AAPL.O) employee pleaded guilty to multiple criminal counts after being accused of taking kickbacks from Asian suppliers.

Paul Devine, who worked at the iPhone maker as a global supply manager, was accused of using his position to pass confidential information to help suppliers negotiate favorable contracts with Apple. [ID:nLDE67G029] He worked there from 2005 until 2010.

Apple launched an internal investigation last year and found a cache of emails between Devine and the suppliers, according to a civil lawsuit the company filed against Devine. U.S. prosecutors then obtained an indictment on 23 counts in August.

Devine pleaded guilty on Monday to wire fraud, conspiracy and money laundering in a San Jose federal court, the U.S. Attorney's office announced. He also agreed to forfeit about $2.28 million in money and property.

"Mr. Devine is a good man who made a mistake, and now he's trying to make amends," his attorney Raphael Goldman said on Monday.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in San Francisco declined to comment further.

Sentencing is scheduled for June 6. Devine faces a maximum prison term of 20 years on the wire fraud and money laundering counts, but could receive far less time.

An Apple representative declined to comment on the guilty plea. At the time it filed the civil case against Devine, Apple said it had "zero tolerance" for dishonest behavior inside or outside the company.

The civil lawsuit has been on hold pending the outcome of the criminal prosecution.

The criminal case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California is U.S.A. v. Devine, 10-cr-603.

(Reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Richard Chang)

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