Witness in Galleon Case Is Said to Have History of Passing Secrets

Ashlee Vance and Michael J. de la Merced|The New York Times

The central witness in a federal insider trading case against Raj Rajaratnam, founder of the Galleon hedge fund, has a more than 10-year history of passing on privileged information to the fund, according to federal court documents.

Roomy Khan, the witness, faxed confidential sales and pricing information for computer chips sold by Intel to Galleon in 1998, according to documents in United States District Court in San Jose, Calif. At the time, Ms. Khan worked at Inteland had responded to requests for the information from a representative of Galleon, left unidentified in the documents.

She worked at Galleon for a time in the late 1990s after the Intel incident.

Little more could be learned about the case because it was sealed by a federal court.

The San Jose Mercury News reported the links between Ms. Khan, Intel and Galleon on Friday. It reported that she pleaded guilty to wire fraud and that in 2002 a federal judge ordered Ms. Khan to serve six months of home detention and to pay $150,000 in fines and restitution.

Ms. Khan has been identified as “Tipper A” or the cooperating witness in the government’s case that accuses Mr. Rajaratnam of insider trading.

Federal prosecutors said that Ms. Khan provided them with taped conversations she had with Mr. Rajaratnam and admitted to passing on inside information tied to Google and other companies. Ms. Khan has agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy and securities fraud to receive a lighter sentence, according to a criminal complaint.

Court filings in the most recent case say that Ms. Khan first met Mr. Rajaratnam in 1996, while she was still at Intel and he was at the investment bank Needham & Company.

The earlier court documents described Ms. Khan as “executing the scheme and artifice to defraud” by obtaining the sales data from Intel. She would have had access to how actual shipments were matching up with previously forecast demand. She was accused of divulging six months’ worth of product and financial data.

Other details of Ms. Khan’s life point to a complex legal and financial past.

While their family has roots in Bangladesh, Ms. Khan and her husband, Sakhawat Khan, have lived in Silicon Valley for decades. Mr. Khan built a reputation as a chip designer through work at various companies. He has amassed about 30 patents that cover analog and flash memory chip technology and benefited from the sale of two start-ups, Information Storage Devices and Agate Semiconductor. Recently, Mr. Khan did work for Silicon Storage Technology , which claims a number of his patents.

“They are both very personable and very intelligent,” said Trevor Blyth, who has been awarded a number of patents in conjunction with Mr. Khan. “Roomy was a high-energy, powerful lady.”

While the Khans lived in Atherton, one of Silicon Valley’s most exclusive neighborhoods, it remains unclear how much wealth they had accumulated over the years. The Khans were plaintiffs in a 2003 lawsuit that stemmed from the collapse of an $18.5 million real estate deal. In 2002, Robert and Ann Hyams agreed to purchase the Khans’ property, but by the end of that year decided to drop the purchase and enter into a settlement agreement with the Khans, according to court documents.

Under that settlement, the Hyams agreed to pay the Khans $650,000, but by the deadline for the payment they had wired only $5,500 to the Khans’ account. The Khans sued in San Mateo County Superior Court and were awarded the remaining $644,500, plus interest.

By 2005, the Khans’ financial situation seemed to have deteriorated.

Deutsche Bank filed an arbitration case in 2005 against the Khans and their investment firm, Digital Age Capital, for failing to pay the fees for an options brokerage account they held with the firm. They reached a settlement in August that year, under which the Khans would pay $700,000, payable in two installments of $350,000 each.

The Khans defaulted on the first payment, and Ms. Khan wrote an e-mail message to a Deutsche Bank lawyer, pleading hardship and asking for more time to pay the $700,000.

“I am currently having liquidity problems and would like to pay the full amount of $700,000 by Dec. 31, 2005,” she wrote in the message. “I assure you that we are not seeking to avoid our obligations, we just need a bit more time.”

In April, they sold their Atherton house, bought in 2000 for $10.5 million, for $9.4 million, according to county filings. The Khans are seeking a new residence in Florida, a relative said.

The Khans have not returned repeated phone calls and e-mail messages requesting comment.

The Khans settled a lawsuit last month in which they had been accused of underpaying their housekeeper. Vilma Serralta, the housekeeper, received far less than minimum wage while working more than 14 hours a day, according to the court documents. The judge in the case determined that the Khans had tried to fabricate evidence in the case, leading to the settlement.

“From what I saw in this case, I’m not surprised Ms. Khan has been charged with a crime,” said Hillary Ronen, who represented Ms. Serralta in the case. “The whole air about her was ‘how dare her servant stand up to her.’ ”

Ms. Ronen said that lawyers had to rearrange seats during settlement talks to prevent Ms. Khan from shoving Ms. Serralta.

Prosecutors have said that Ms. Khan provided Mr. Rajaratnam with tips about Polycom , a video conferencing company. Polycom said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it placed Sunil K. Bhalla, a senior vice president and general manager in voice communications solutions, on administrative leave. A Polycom spokeswoman declined to comment beyond the filing and would not confirm that Mr. Bhalla’s suspension was connected to the insider trading investigation.

Michael J. de la Merced reported from New York and Ashlee Vance from Mountain View, Calif. Zachery Kouwe contributed reporting from New York and Dan Zehr from San Mateo, Calif.