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Former Vitesse executives avoid prison in fraud case

NEW YORK, March 25 (Reuters) - Two former executives at Vitesse Semiconductor Corp who became cooperating witnesses in the government's prosecution of the company's top management for inflating company earnings and backdating stock options were sentenced to time served Tuesday.

Yatin Mody, who was the chipmaker's controller and chief financial officer, and Nicole Kaplan, who was a mid-level finance executive, had pleaded guilty in 2010 to charges including securities fraud and conspiracy.

"I'm incredibly sorry for my involvement in this," Kaplan told U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty, who imposed the sentences, at a hearing in Manhattan federal court.

Mody, 50, and Kaplan, 42, both testified against Louis Tomasetta, Vitesse's co-founder and former chief executive, and Eugene Hovanec, a former executive vice president.

Prosecutors accused Tomasetta and Hovanec of scheming to mislead Vitesse's auditors and investors about the Camarillo, California-based company's financial conditions and business results from 2001 to 2006.

Tomasetta and Hovanec were also accused of illegally backdating stock options issued to employees over a three-year period starting in 2001.

After trials in 2012 and 2013 ended in mistrials, Tomasetta and Hovanec agreed in August to plead guilty to a lesser charge, conspiracy to obstruct a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into stock-options backdating.

Prosecutors did not recommend prison time for either man, and a federal judge in December sentenced each to serve three years of probation and pay a $30,000 fine.

Tomasetta previously agreed to pay $100,000 and Hovanec $50,000 in related SEC civil settlements. Mody and Kaplan settled with the SEC in 2010 for $162,320 and $47,495, while Vitesse settled with that regulator for $3 million.

The cases in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, are U.S. v. Mody, No. 10-cr-1199, and U.S. v. Kaplan, No. 10-cr-1186.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Bernard Orr)