NEW YORK (Reuters) - Three technology executives and a salesman for an "expert network" firm were arrested and charged with leaking confidential information about companies including Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Advanced Micro Devices Inc AMD.N in a widening probe of insider trading at hedge funds.
The defendants are accused of illegally passing on tips to at least two unnamed hedge funds.
In one instance, an employee of contract electronics manufacturer Flextronics International Ltd (FLEX.O) is accused of leaking inside information about the release of the iPad as well as an updated version of the iPhone.
The FBI has arrested the four men, a law enforcement source said. They were charged with wire fraud and conspiracy.
The technology company defendants were identified as Walter Shimoon, who worked at Flextronics; Mark Longoria, 44, employed by AMD as a supply chain manager; and Manosha Karunatilaka, 37, who worked for Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd(2330.TW).
The fourth defendant, James Fleishman, 41, was a sales manager for the California-based expert networking firm, which was not identified. Court papers, however, said it was the same firm that employed Don Ching Trang Chu of Primary Global Research, who was arrested on November 24 and charged with arranging for inside information to be leaked to hedge funds.
Authorities announced the guilty plea of a fifth man, a former employee at Dell Inc DELL.O. Names of their defense attorneys were not immediately available.
The court papers said Shimoon, Longoria and Karunatilaka were hired consultants for the expert networking firm, which helps put hedge funds in contact with industry executives and consultants.
The government said it had intercepted phone calls in which Shimoon, 39, a senior director of business development at Flextronics leaked inside information about the release of the iPad as well as an updated version of the iPhone.
Flextronics was privy to those details as an Apple supplier, according to the complaint.
"Today's charges allege that a corrupt network of insiders at some of the world's leading technology companies served as so-called 'consultants' who sold out their employers by stealing and then peddling their valuable inside information," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.
Bharara said that "over the next many months and beyond, we will continue to enforce the law, police the market, and protect honest businesses and their shareholders by working methodically with the FBI and SEC to root out corporate corruption and insider trading."
Authorities also announced that Daniel Devore, formerly a global supply manager for Dell, who worked as a consultant to the expert networking firm, pleaded guilty related wire fraud and conspiracy charges on December 10.
The charges, filed in Manhattan federal court, are part of a long-running insider trading investigation that included the 2009 charges against Galleon Group hedge fund founder Raj Rajaratnam and a score of others.
Dell said it "is committed to the highest standards of ethics and integrity" and will "cooperate fully with law enforcement authorities."
An Apple representative declined immediate comment. AMD, Flextronics and Taiwan Semiconductor were not immediately available to comment.
Reporting by Matt Goldstein, Svea Herbst-Bayliss and Grant McCool and Martha Graybow; Editing by Ted Kerr