A seething federal judge in Brooklyn on Wednesday refused to release former Comverse Technology Inc. chief executive Jacob “Kobi” Alexander on bail, tearing into the just-returned fugitive as a con man of “intelligence and guile” who “can’t be trusted.”
Alexander fled to Namibia in 2006 just before he was charged with backdating stock options at the Woodbury software company he founded and trying to bribe an underling to take the fall. He waived extradition under a plea agreement and returned this week to plead to one count of securities fraud.
After he entered his plea — telling U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis, “I deeply regret having participated in this conduct.” The judge responded harshly to defense lawyer Benjamin Brafman’s argument that Alexander should get bail pending sentencing because he had returned “voluntarily.”
“He didn’t come here voluntarily, he came back with this plea agreement, which protects him in various ways, including his assets,” the judge said, waving the 10-page plea deal which dropped 34 counts and barred prosecutors from seeking money above the $60 million Alexander paid to settle civil claims.
Brafman had offered to have Alexander post $10 million in cash and sign a $25 million bond to get him out. But prosecutors said he was worth $100 million, and Garaufis said Alexander — an Israeli citizen — could easily go to the consulate, get a new passport and flee again if he feared a harsh sentence.
“I have no idea,” said Garaufis, who has handled the case since 2006, when Alexander first disappeared. “Maybe he would hide out in a cave, or go to another country where he could live more comfortably than Namibia.”
“He’s here sizing up the situation,” the judge added. “He’s sizing up the situation on this side of the bench. So spare me. I wasn’t born yesterday.”
Alexander, 64, a father of three, co-founded Comverse in 1982, and the firm pioneered digital voicemail. In his plea, he said the company backdated stock options for executives from 1998 to 2001, without disclosing the practice in annual reports.
When he fled on the eve of charges in 2006 after secretly moving money overseas, prosecutors said, his own lawyers were in the dark. The company’s general counsel and chief financial officer later pleaded guilty.
Alexander faces up to 10 years in prison under his plea, and federal sentencing guidelines — largely due to the size of the fraud — call for him to get the maximum. Garaufis set his sentencing for Dec. 16, and said he’ll be held at the federal jail in Brooklyn until then.
“His intelligence and his guile are a clear indication that he can’t be trusted,” the judge said. “I want to make sure that on the day of sentencing he is here.”
Alexander, who appeared tieless with a black sportcoat after flying in with FBI agents from Namibia Wednesday morning, turned and looked at his family in the courtroom when Garaufis ruled, but didn’t react. His wife and other family members, some crying, declined to comment as they left the courtroom.
Brafman said he was “bitterly disappointed,” but would not say if he planned to appeal the bail decision.