Former New York fund analyst convicted of insider trading

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former analyst at Michael Dell’s New York-based investment fund was convicted of insider trading on Monday, just a week after he was arrested for refusing to come to court to face trial.

John Afriyie, 29, was found guilty by a federal jury in Manhattan of securities fraud and wire fraud for misusing secret information about a deal that MSD Capital, named for the Dell Inc founder, was considering financing.

Jurors immediately began hearing additional evidence to decide whether Afriyie should forfeit about $2.6 million, money that prosecutors said he made through insider trading and re-investing his over $1.5 million in illegal profits.

Lawyers for Afriyie were not immediately available to comment.

The trial was the latest to spill out of a wave of insider trading cases by Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office, which has secured 85 individuals’ convictions since 2009.

Prosecutors said that in early 2016, Afriyie learned about Apollo Global Management LLC’s planned $7 billion deal to buy security company ADT Corp after the private equity firm approached MSD about providing financing.

After MSD employees were emailed about a restriction imposed on trading in ADT stock, Afriyie accessed a shared folder on MSD’s network server to learn about Apollo’s pending deal, prosecutors said.

He then bought ADT call options for $24,254 through a brokerage account in his mother’s name, enabling him to earn more than $1.5 million when the deal was announced, prosecutors said.

Afriyie denied wrongdoing. Defense attorney Ezra Spilke told jurors on Monday that the purported ADT inside information had become stale due to new developments and his trades amounted to betting.

“These are lottery tickets,” Spilke said in his closing argument.

The trial began a day later than planned, after Afriyie on Jan. 23 refused to come to court, prompting the U.S. Marshals Service to arrest him at a hotel in East Windsor, New Jersey.

Spilke called Afriyie’s absence a “misguided attempt to fire his counsel,” but U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer determined Afriyie had given “willfully untrue” reasons for not attending court. The judge revoked Afriyie’s bail as a result of his absence.

Defense lawyers soon after asked Engelmayer for a psychiatric evaluation of Afriyie, saying in a court filing that Afriyie had been showing an “absence of rational thinking.” Engelmayer denied the request.

The case is U.S. v. Afriyie, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 16-cr-337.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Phil Berlowitz