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Secret recording indicates father, son shared insider tips

Sean Stewart, left, leaves Manhattan federal court with

Sean Stewart, left, leaves Manhattan federal court with his lawyer, Mark Gombiner, after opening statements in Stewart's insider trading trial, Wednesday, July 27, 2016 in New York City. Credit: AP

Jurors in the father-son insider trading trial of Long Islander Sean Stewart heard the government’s star informant testify Tuesday about how he secretly recorded a lunch meeting in a Manhattan diner with the former investment banker’s dad, Robert Stewart.

Richard Cunniffe, the informant who said he made more than $700,000 trading on tips that Robert Stewart said came from his son, told jurors that when he was approached by the FBI, his wife was terrified and he agreed to cooperate quickly.

“I was scared,” Cunniffe, 62, testified in federal court in Manhattan. “I knew what I did was wrong. I knew I was in serious trouble.”

Sean Stewart, 35, of New York City, is charged with passing tips on mergers to his father, 61, of North Merrick, where Sean grew up, who allegedly traded with Cunniffe. Cunniffe and Robert Stewart both pleaded guilty, but the father is not cooperating against his son.

Cunniffe, in his second day on the witness stand, said he only met Sean Stewart once, never discussed stock tips with him and couldn’t say if he knew his father was trading.

But at his first wired meeting with Robert on March 24, 2015, at Andrew’s Coffee Shop, Cunniffe said, the father made a key admission, confiding that after he failed to trade on one tip Sean complained, “I handed you this on a silver platter and you didn’t invest.”

Sean Stewart’s defense is that his father took advantage of information he learned in casual conversations with his son without saying he was trading. The defense says that on other occasions Robert said Sean didn’t know, contradicting what he said in the diner.

Cunniffe’s testimony is scheduled to continue when the trial resumes Wednesday.

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